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Camfed Supports Female Education and Women’s Leadership

Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey is credited with going around the country allaying the fears of parents with this mantra: "If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family." These words eventually became the famous quote: "If you educate a boy, you educate an individual, but if you educate a girl, you educate a nation."



As the world celebrates this year’s International Day of the Girl Child on Sunday, October 11, on the theme “The power of the adolescent girl: Vision for 2030”, the goal three of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on ‘Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women’ is yet to be fully achieved.

The Day of the Girl Child recognises the empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, the achievement of all the MDGs, including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, as key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights.

The day is also to make a strong case that empowering girls required their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community. In Ghana, although gender parity has almost been achieved at the primary school level, girls still lag behind boys in secondary and tertiary education due to high drop-out rates among girls at the higher educational levels.

According to the United Nations (UN), as the international community assesses progress under the MDGs since their implementation in 2000 and sets goals to be achieved by 2030 under the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), girls born at the turn of the millennium have reached adolescence, and the generation of girls born this year will be adolescents in 2030. “As we reflect on the achievements of the past 15 years and plan sustainable development goals for the next 15, it is an opportune time to consider the importance of social, economic, and political investment in the power of adolescent girls as fundamental to breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination and to achieving equitable and sustainable development outcomes”, it says.

The UN resolves that adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during these critical formative years, but also as they mature into women and also states that if effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world – both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders.

To the UN, an investment in realising the power of adolescent girls upholds their rights today and promises a more equitable and prosperous future, one in which half of humanity is an equal partner in solving the problems of climate change, political conflict, economic growth, disease prevention, and global sustainability.

One organisation that is making a difference in the lives of young girls and women is the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed). Established in 1998, the organisation’s work in Ghana is focused in 860 schools and 31 districts in the Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Central Regions due to the levels of poverty in these areas. According to Camfed, girls and women are the most vulnerable victims of poverty. Early drop-out from school, poor employment opportunities and social marginalisation in decision-making processes reflect their low social status and lack of empowerment. Camfed works with partners to provide comprehensive scholarships to girls to have an education.

Camfed views its scholarship programme as means to an end and invests in young women’s leadership. The organisation provides young women with the knowledge and skills to become leaders of change in their communities. Through the Financial Literacy Training (FLT), Entrepreneurship Skills Training and the Innovation Bursary Program (IBP), Camfed has capacitated many young women with the requisite skills to start and run their own business. Ayisha Fuseini, a beneficiary of the IBP has a successful shea butter business in the Northern Region. She states, “the Camfed IBP enhanced my capacity to be able to run my shea business and today I am one of 16 women out of 107 beneficiaries selected for the Youth Enterprise Support (YES) program of the Government of Ghana”.

 

Camfed Ghana has a strong alumni network (Cama) of over 9000 young women in all its districts of operation. These young women undertake advocacy and training activities that are geared towards improving the lives of their community members. Some Cama members have taken a bold step into local politics and recently Safura Yussif and Hawa Tambo won elections as assembly members in the Karaga District Assembly.  Their election speaks volumes about the Cama network’s success in opening up new leadership pathways for women who were once the most vulnerable people in Society. Safura intends to “use my influence to get many more girls educated”.

With support from The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program which is a 10-year partnership between The MasterCard Foundation and Camfed, many girls are receiving comprehensive support through secondary school and tertiary education with a full scholarship. Since its official launch in October, 2013, precisely on the International Day of the Girl-Child, the Scholars Program has supported 2,220 girls to secondary school and 270 girls from the Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Central regions of Ghana to attend tertiary institutions. This year, another 1,780 secondary and 230 tertiary girls who truly need financial support, having achieved satisfactory academic performance in the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) and the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE), and demonstrated leadership potential, have been selected for a full scholarship. Janet Ayamga,  a Secondary Scholar and final year General Science student of Bolgatanga Senior High School notes “the full scholarship I received from Camfed keeps me focused on my studies and I can confidently say my dream of becoming a Medical Doctor is on course”.

Also through funding support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) over the years, Camfed has been able to finance the education of many girls to ensure they achieve their fullest potential. For instance as of 2014, a total of 31,000 girls were supported with DFID funding to attend junior and senior high school.

Camfed Ghana and DFID have shared values and commitment to the provision of quality education, particularly for the girl-child in Ghana. Through funding support from DFID, Camfed Ghana and the Girls’ Education Unit (GEU) of the Ghana Education Service (GES) have established a partnership aimed at promoting enrolment and retention of the girl-child in school. A major component of the partnership between Camfed Ghana and the GEU is research and this is in tandem with the Camfed strategy to undertake programs and interventions based on evidence and research data.

Under the program “Extending Support to Girls in Secondary Education in Ghana, 2012 – 2016”, DFID provided support for research on the impact of girls’ clubs on the retention of girls in junior high schools in Ghana. Conducted in 12 junior high schools in the Eastern and Northern regions, the research found that most of the girls’ clubs demonstrate a high ability to build girls’ self-esteem, confidence and sense of collective solidarity. The girls who are best able to remain in school are those who are able to translate these assets into motivators for remaining in school.

As we celebrate the International Day of the Girl-Child on October 11, Camfed affirms its commitment to work with like-minded partners such as The MasterCard Foundation and DFID to give a voice to the girl-child, and to work towards providing opportunities for her to overcome the barriers and achieve her fullest potential. Camfed focuses on the girl-child and is committed to multiplying girls’ access to education and empowering them to be leaders of change in their families, communities and nation at large.

 

Source: Strategic Partnerships and Communications Team, Camfed Ghana


 

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