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Africa: listen, women, it is possible!

About the author
Angeline Mugwendere is Zimbabwe’s National Coordinator of Cama – The Campaign for Female Education Association. This letter, addressed to the petition organisers NetAid, is also published by Camfed.

The vast majority of the women who have signed this petition to world leaders do not have email addresses. They are from very remote rural areas of Zimbabwe. Most have never set eyes on a computer, but wish their children at least to have the chance to do so. Some of those who have signed are children, as young as six years old, who are struggling to remain in school.

After I explained to them what the petition is about, a lot of parents wanted to sign up. But how could they when they have never been to school themselves? They could have put an ‘x’ as they are often asked to, but that would not have identified them for who they are, as individuals. However, they are joining with us in hoping that the leaders at the next G8 summit will not only declare anew but also fulfil their commitment to end poverty through the education of children.

CAMFED

The Campaign for Female Education was established in 1993 to support girls’ education. It currently has programmes in Zimbabwe, Ghana and Zambia where it has pioneered strategies to tackle the range of constraints on girls’ education, such as family poverty, distance from home to school and sexual harassment.

As one who has managed to break the cycle of poverty in my family, I know that education is the solution to gnawing poverty. Education is for life, a sustainable means of intervention. The children helped by education are not passive recipients of support, but resourceful individuals able to provide and act on ideas and solutions grounded in the realities of the life they are living.

I am only one example. As early as primary school I knew what it meant to pay my way in school. My parents were too poor to afford the then one pound sterling school fees per term. My mom used to alter her own best dresses to make dresses for me to wear to school, while my father laboured for next to nothing in people’s gardens to get us some money for salt and other needs that had to be bought with cash. It was a very difficult life.

Despite all the hardships I passed my basic education exams exceptionally well. But I recall crying terribly as it dawned on me that my flying colours were no passport to proceed to secondary school. There was a need for more fees and I had to be in more decent clothing as I was growing up. Even if my parents had sold all they had, it would not be enough to pay for even two consecutive terms at secondary school.

CAMA

The Campaign for Female Education Association was established in 1998 as a membership organisation for young female school-leavers with a mission to promote girls’ education. It creates a new constituency of influence through which young educated women become the ambassadors for girls’ education on the local, national and international stage, and play an instrumental role in directing action to promote the retention and attendance of girls in school.

It was then that the Camfed (Campaign for Female Education) organisation came in and committed to support me through my secondary education. For the first time in my life, I had adequate and proper uniforms; for the first time I was not sent home to collect fees, and for the first time I was not burdened with domestic work. The education I was privileged to acquire made a significant and irreversible impact on my life.

With others supported through school by Camfed and other rural young women school leavers we have set up our own organisation, Cama, the Camfed Association, to act as a support and networking organisation for girls and women in rural areas. We are sharing with our communities the benefits of our education. For other girls who dropped out of school, we help them whenever we can. We are working tirelessly to help them rebuild their lives as well as their confidence.

It is possible! The world’s leaders need to know that and to support that process not in words only but with action as well. There has been a lot of talk. Now they need to implement all those wonderful strategies and aspirations they draft every time they meet. The best time to do so is now!


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