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8 December, 2017 - 12:40 By Kate Sweeney

Hollywood star hails Camfed’s film premiere

Hollywood actress Emma Watson, a keen activist, paid homage to Camfed’s own campaigners for women’s education in Africa with a supportive tweet before the Cambridge premiere of the charity’s documentary on child marriage: ‘Pathways.’

Emma has been a long-term supporter of Camfed and her support for the campaign has been inspirational to volunteers and Camfed’s ‘GirlGuardians’ ambassadors.

The Pathways documentary, which explores the transformation through education of young African girls and women destined to be child brides, was shown at St. John’s College supported by Business Weekly and the university’s Cambridge Judge Business School. 

Camfed president Ann Cotton was joined by colleague Dolores Dickson, representing Camfed’s African leadership at the film screening and networking event.

After networking drinks, Tracey Horn, executive director of the Women’s Leadership Centre at Cambridge Judge introduced the 15-minute documentary which charts the journey of Camfed alumna Alice Saisha, whom Emma Watson met on a visit to Africa.

Once destined to be a child bride, Alice now works with girls, families, schools and district officials to end child marriage in her community. She is a role model whose life story illustrates what is possible to achieve when girls in some of the poorest communities in the world access the resources and support to go to school and succeed.

Tracey Horn said: “The world is talking about the consequences of gender inequity and these consequences are most extreme in developing countries where girls are the first to be failed by the system, left behind, invisible.

“Camfed’s model was built from the beginning on girls’ education as the catalyst for change, supporting girls not only through school but into a life of leadership and entrepreneurship.
 
“Alice, the central character in this film, was also a young entrepreneur and financial literacy trainer who started a poultry business to fund her own university education – a diploma in Human Resource Management at the National Institution of Public Administration in Lusaka.

“Just recently she completed a degree in Sociology through distance learning with Women’s University of Africa. Next Alice aims to start a master’s degree in Development studies. Alice is one of 100,000 activists in Camfed’s CAMA alumnae network – a network that is Camfed’s ‘unique selling point’.

Dolores Dickson from Ghana, who led Camfed’s programme in West Africa and is now heading up its new Canadian office, explained that Camfed’s work doesn’t end with school.

Through the CAMA network, graduates like Alice receive the training they need to start rural businesses, using their earnings to support more girls at school. This multiplier means that each alumna is supporting on average two more children in her community to go to school. Let’s meet three of Camfed’s alumnae entrepreneurs.
 


Lindiwe expanded an innovative homemade juice and soda company (‘Lee Juice’) with the help of Camfed and Kiva. Photo courtesy: Brandon Smith/Kiva and Jon Pilch/Camfed

Soft Drinks Entrepreneur, Lindiwe (Zimbabwe) 
Lindiwe grew up in Zimbabwe’s Shurugwi District with her widowed mother, both grandmothers and her two younger brothers. Her mother sold vegetables for the family’s upkeep but couldn’t afford to pay for Lindiwe’s education. 

She travelled long distances to school, barefoot, often on an empty stomach, wearing a dress she had long grown out of, as she didn’t have a proper uniform. Sometimes, Lindiwe would walk all the way to school like this, just to be turned away for not paying her school fees. Luckily her Camfed partner community stepped in to help, and she was supported to complete her education.

Lindiwe joined Camfed’s Learner Guide Programme and uses her own nuanced understanding of the many barriers to education imposed by poverty as she works to improve the wellbeing and performance of the students she works with. She was one of the first 500 Camfed Learner Guides in Zimbabwe to earn a BTEC for her work.

She received business training and a small interest-free loan through Camfed’s partnership with Kiva. With the money, Lindiwe expanded an innovative homemade juice and soda company (‘Lee Juice’) in her rural community, which she had started in February 2016 from the small profits of her poultry business.

At first producing 20 bottles a fortnight, Lindiwe has already expanded to producing 750 bottles a fortnight and also runs her own shop. Lindiwe became the first CAMA member in Zimbabwe to register her business with the government authorities, selling her products not only to community members but in big supermarkets in several cities.
With her business success, Lindiwe has seen a change in how she feels about herself and her status in the community. She uses her experience to support Camfed clients leaving school to shape their lives in the critical transition period after school.

She has already trained three staff members and plans to build a warehouse to expand production. As a business innovator and aspiring teacher, Lindiwe aims to show girls just what is possible when they persevere in education and work hard to achieve independence after school.
 


With a small grant from Camfed, Mwamba opened a salon and restaurant where she currently manages three employees. Photo courtesy: Eliza Powell/Camfed

Restaurant-owner Mwamba (Zambia) 
Mwamba was born in Samfya District, Zambia. Both of her parents passed away when she was very young, leaving her and her four siblings in the care of an aunt. With no formal education or employment, Mwamba’s aunt struggled to feed and clothe the whole family.

In such desperate circumstances, school fees and other needed items seemed an impossible luxury in the day-to-day fight for survival. Mwamba started selling popcorn and other snacks, but she still wasn’t earning enough to cover her school-going costs. That’s when Camfed stepped in and supported her to complete school.

After graduating high school, Mwamba joined the Camfed Alumnae Association, CAMA, and attended a Leadership and Enterprise program, where she gained the skills and confidence she needed to start her own business. With a small grant from Camfed, Mwamba opened a salon and restaurant where she currently manages three employees. Mwamba (below) is now a happily married mother, ploughing back the benefits of her own education into her family. By reinvesting the profits from her business into her children’s and siblings’ education she is making strides towards breaking the cycle of poverty for good.
 


Last year, Vida built a processing centre for her supplies. Image courtesy: Isaac Oboth/Media256

Food producer Vida (Ghana)
When Vida lost her father at a young age, her family fell into financial hardship and the prospect of her going to school hung in the balance. 

Between missing school to help her mother work the fields and sell firewood to provide for the family, and struggling to turn enough profit to pay for her school fees, it seemed as though Vida would never complete her education. Then Camfed stepped in, and once relieved of the financial burden of her tuition and basic needs, she thrived in her studies.

After graduating, Vida joined the Camfed alumnae network, CAMA, and had the opportunity to access interest-free loans, as well as financial literacy and entrepreneurship training, which gave her the skills and resources she needed to start her own business.

Having grown up in a community predominantly dependent on subsistence farming, Vida recognised the need for more sustainable and large-scale agricultural projects.

Vida produces rice, beans and Tom Brown (a nutritious blend of wheat, maize, millet, groundnuts, and soya beans widely used to make porridge for young children), which she then sells to local stores for a profit. Vida’s business has flourished and she is now financially independent, supporting her family beyond their means and injecting prosperity into her community.
 
Last year, she built a processing centre for her supplies. This year, she plans to build a shop to sell her products to her community and increase trade in her village. Vida’s mother is her proudest supporter and marvels at how an education has transformed their small farm into a thriving enterprise.

Help Camfed to £1 million target before January 10 guillotine 

Camfed is just over halfway to raising its £1 million target through the UK Aid Match campaign but with Christmas approaching it is crucial to keep the donations from individuals rolling in. As at the start of this week £259,418 had been donated which the Government will match, doubling the figure so far to £518,836.

Companies may not donate but individual employees, family and friends are urged to do so via www.camfed.org

Every penny will help take more deprived girls and young women in Africa out of poverty and into education and careers. 

• PHOTOGRAPH AT TOP OF ARTICLE: Actress Emma Watson with Camfed alumna Alice Saisha

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