Charity Spotlight Interview: Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED)

Charity Spotlight – Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED)

Welcome to this week’s Charity Spotlight Interview.  This week we are talking with CAMFED, a charity which supports marginalised girls to go to school, to realise their potential and tackle poverty. If you have further suggestions for charities you would like to be featured, do get in touch with us at

1. In a nutshell, please could you describe the work that CAMFED does?

We tackles poverty and inequality by supporting girls to go to school and succeed, and empowering young women to step up as leaders of change.  Specifically we invest in girls and women in the poorest rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa, where girls face acute disadvantage, and where their education has transformative potential. And we not only support girls and young women through school, but also on to new lives as entrepreneurs and community leaders. Graduating students complete the “virtuous cycle,” and create sustainable change, by becoming CAMFED Association (CAMA) alumnae, many of whom return to school to train and mentor new generations of students. Since 1993, our community-led education programmes have directly supported over 2.6 million children to go to school in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, and Tanzania at more than 5,745 partner schools.

2. Why specifically female education – what particular barriers do girls face when accessing education?

In sub-Saharan Africa, 52.2 million girls of primary to upper secondary age are out of school. 75% of girls start primary school, but only 8% finish secondary school. Poverty is the root cause. Children in the poorest countries are nine times more likely to be out of school than those in the richest.

Yet an educated girl will earn up to 25% more per year of secondary school. She’ll reinvest 90% of her earnings in her family. She’ll marry later and have a smaller, healthier family. She’ll invest in her children’s education and support their studies.

Girls in the marginalized rural communities where we work face more barriers to education than boys, including responsibility for household chores, younger siblings or ill relatives. The cost of school fees, stationery, uniforms, and menstrual hygiene products is often beyond reach. Long journeys to school pose the risk of exploitation. Many girls have lost one or both parents, and live in child-headed households or with frail elderly relatives. Families often see early marriage as the only means of securing a girl’s future. Yet this risks her health, her wellbeing, and her education. Deeply embedded gender inequity also leads to girls lacking a sense of entitlement to education — a psychological barrier to learning, compounding physical and financial hurdles.

3. What impact would you say that a good education has on a girl’s health outcomes? Both in general terms and particularly in regards to sexual and reproductive health.

Educated girls are three times less likely to become HIV positive. They marry later, and have smaller, healthier families, avoiding the mental and physical health risks associated with early marriage and early pregnancy — such as abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and the severe health complications caused by girls getting pregnant before their bodies are ready — including preeclampsia, cephalopelvic disproportion, and obstetric fistula. Girls who are educated about their sexual and reproductive rights, and have agency and decision-making power, can avoid the detrimental psychological effects of becoming a mother without having developed the maturity to handle parental responsibility. In addition, education which includes information on healthy habits, such as proper nutrition and exercise, will improve a young woman’s health as well as that of her future family.

4. One element of health which is often erased from the narrative when discussing developing countries is disability. What does CAMFED do to support disabled children to reach their full potential where education is concerned?

CAMFED supports clients with disability aids across our countries of operation, but the resource challenge calls for an intensified programme tackling the additional barriers to education disabled children face. Through one such programme in Zimbabwe, we have supported nearly 250 students with disabilities to date, enabling their transition from primary to secondary school and to sit their O-Levels. At the same time, we are working with statutory and research partners to drive forward the interlinked actions necessary to achieve transformational and cost-effective education for children with disabilities, and advocate for inclusive education globally.

(Watch a Facebook live interview with disability activist Primrose Mandishona and find out more at

5. Do you believe that educating and empowering girls to be leaders of change will help to facilitate a climate where improved global health and wellbeing can be achieved?

We believe that educating girls is key to reaching all the Sustainable Development Goals, including improved health and wellbeing.

Children of mothers who can read are 50% more likely to live past the age of five than children of illiterate mothers. Children whose mothers went to secondary school are also twice as likely to be vaccinated, which leads to better health outcomes for the whole community.

Educated women tend to be more knowledgeable about child nutrition, good sanitation and medical care. According to the Center for Global Development around 1.8 million children’s lives could have been saved had their mothers completed secondary school.

Find out more at

This blog post was a collaboration between Serena Bailey, Director of Engagement for CORBIS and the Communications team at CAMFED. If you are a student at the University of Sussex, Brighton and Sussex Medical School or Institute of Development Studies and would be interested in getting involved with our work, get in touch with us at

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