New year, new future for girls in rural Zambia

CAMFED Learner Guide Alice delivering a mentoring session. (Photo: Eliza Powell/CAMFED)

Thanks to the generosity of the UK public, doubled by UK Aid Match, CAMFED’s young women leaders are implementing their unique solution for girls at risk of child marriage.

CAMFED (the Campaign for Female Education) has announced the latest milestones resulting from its 2017-18 UK Aid Match Appeal.

The international non-profit organisation partnered with the UK government to raise awareness of the issue of child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa, introducing CAMFED’s unique solution, led by young women who were once themselves at risk of early marriage. The total raised during the appeal was a target-busting £2,780,616.03, including match funding from the UK government of £1,332,267.91 against donations by private UK residents.

These donations enabled CAMFED to introduce its Learner Guide Programme, across 15 rural districts in Zambia. To date, 203 young women have been trained as Learner Guides, and are now active in 85 government schools, where they have already supported 7,353 marginalised children with a life skills curriculum and mentoring support. In addition, 240 bicycles have been supplied to young women for community outreach work.

Learner Guides are female role models and mentors, whose own experience means that they understand the challenges many students face -- including grief through the loss of close family members, and the pressure to marry young.

They return to their local schools to deliver a bespoke life skills and wellbeing curriculum, My Better World, which aims to improve educational outcomes for children, particularly the most vulnerable. Beyond the classroom, Learner Guides create an important home-school link, following up with children who drop out of school, and working with communities to keep vulnerable girls safe from child marriage and other forms of abuse.

One student in a Learner Guide session in Zambia commented: “I couldn’t tell people about the things I was going through, things that had happened to me. I didn’t feel free to tell anybody. I used to sit in the corner of the classroom and cry. But from the day I started learning [with] the My Better World book, it has changed me. I am able to stand up in front of people, talk on my behalf, stand up for myself, so thank you for the My Better World class.”

CAMFED’s Learner Guide Programme is designed not only to benefit marginalised children, but also to open up opportunities for members of  the CAMFED Association - young women educated with CAMFED support -  as they make the transition to secure livelihoods. As mentors, trainers and advocates these young women are earning the respect of parents, teachers, officials and local leaders. From being at the margins of their communities as children, they are becoming powerful leaders, working with traditional authorities to bring about systemic change. The focus of their work is protecting girls from early marriage and child-bearing, helping girls and boys overcome barriers to learning, and supporting children to set and achieve goals that allow them to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.

Angela, a newly trained Learner Guide in Zambia, said: “After delivering the sessions I always encourage the pupils by telling my own story. I also sensitise the learners on the importance of not involving themselves in early marriage. We work to bring child brides back to school. Because they’ve appreciated what Learner Guides are doing, the parents have committed to building a house for the Learner Guides at a school that is too far to travel to.”

This innovative scheme, which creates new opportunities for young women after leaving school, while supporting children to learn and thrive, is sustained by an incentive for Learner Guides: In return for their 18-month volunteer commitment, they gain access to interest-free loans to start local businesses (recognising their volunteering as ‘social interest’) and the opportunity to earn a vocational (BTEC) qualification as a stepping stone to formal teacher training or employment.

With support from the UK government and other donor partners, the Learner Guide Programme has the potential to be scaled further across sub-Saharan Africa. Led by young women like Angela, it is catalysing action to ensure girls can remain in school, thrive at school and after completing school, and lead change in their communities.

Learn more about the impact of CAMFED’s Learner Guide Programme

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Image: CAMFED Learner Guide Alice delivering a mentoring session. (Photo: Eliza Powell/CAMFED)

Learn, thrive and lead change

CAMFED is a pan-African movement, revolutionising how girls’ education is delivered. Through a gold-standard system of accountability to the young people and communities we serve, we have created a model that radically improves girls’ prospects of becoming independent, influential women. Our impact increases exponentially through the Association of young women educated with CAMFED’s support. Together, we multiply the number of girls in school, and accelerate their transition to livelihoods and leadership.

Through the CAMFED Association, women are leading action on the big challenges their countries face - from child marriage and girls’ exclusion from education to climate change. This unique pan-African network of lawyers, doctors, educators, and entrepreneurs now numbers almost 150,000 and is growing exponentially as more girls complete school and join them.

Our collective efforts have already supported more than 3.3 million children to go to school across Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and nearly 5.7 million students have benefited from an improved educational environment.

To read more information, click here.

Camfed is an international non-profit organisation tackling poverty and inequality by supporting girls to go to school and succeed, and empowering young women to step up as leaders of change. Camfed invests in girls and women in the poorest rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa, where girls face acute disadvantage, and where their empowerment is now transforming communities

Camfed International