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How a movement of young women leaders is becoming a powerful new force in international development

Zuhura (above) is a beneficiary of support from CAMFED, our longstanding pro bono partner.

Image: Eliza Powell/CAMFED

“Two years ago I was a high school student studying hard for my final exams. Back when I was a student I never imagined that I could manage a class, guide students through a life skills curriculum and help them grow as individuals. Not only have I discovered that I can do it, but I’ve discovered that I’m actually good at it!”

Zuhura from Tanzania was supported to go to school and then trained to deliver life skills to students at her old school. Some months later she was successful in applying for seed money to set up her own business. "Now I am a role model and a mentor. I am respected in my community and I am so much more confident because of it."

Our longstanding community partner CAMFED tackles poverty and inequality in Africa by supporting girls to go to school and empowering young women like Zuhura to be leaders of change. CAMFED's model is different because its very premise is utmost accountability to the girls it supports – as documented in our report for CAMFED, Accounting to the Girl. CAMFED maintains that it owes the children on whose behalf it acts a duty of care equivalent to that which lawyers and other professionals owe their clients. Its education and associated social assistance programmes succeed because CAMFED gives communities the power and the responsibility to run them.

Now I am a role model and a mentor. I am respected in my community and I am so much more confident because of it.

Zuhura, Alumna

CAMFED

Recently we provided pro bono and financial assistance to a new report on how CAMFED's alumnae movement of young women leaders is becoming a powerful new force in international development. The report focuses on CAMA, the alumni association for those supported through their education by CAMFED. CAMA spurs remarkable change as young women from rural communities use their education to benefit others, and work to break the cycle of poverty for good. CAMA members are teachers, business entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors, social workers and local political leaders, deeply committed to 'plowing back' the benefits of their education into their communities.

The scandals engulfing the international aid sector in recent times have sparked interest worldwide in the best models for delivering international aid effectively, and in how to prevent abuse of power. We hope that the report will inform and inspire debate on how to tackle the most critical strategic questions in international development – how to serve those like Zuhura; how to empower them to help others; how to reach the most excluded and how to achieve lasting and effective change.

"Just stop and think about a million girls determined to change not only their futures, but to change the futures of other girls in Africa. This is more than an organisation, it's more than a development model - it is a movement, a movement with the strength to transform Africa."
Julia Gillard, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, former Prime Minister of Australia and Patron of CAMFED