"It is not a coincidence that Malawi, which is one of the countries with one of the highest exclusion rates for girls, also has one of the highest child marriage rates...Education and child marriage do not go hand in hand." Angeline Murimirwa
Panel Discussion: Spotlight on Progress "Building Bright Futures for Girls through Education and Economic Opportunities"
Context: This presentation is from one of the 14 "Spotlights on Progress" video-recorded sessions from the Girl Summit 2014, London, United Kingdom (UK). The sessions were organised to share best practice between practitioners, grassroots activists, and government ministers across the issues of female genital mutilation (FGM) (also FGM/C - female genital mutilation/cutting) and child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM). Girl Summit is a project of the Department for International Development (DFID), UK.
Profile of speaker: A featured panelist of this Spotlight session was Angeline Murimirwa, Regional Executive Director (Southern Africa) of the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed), an international organisation that seeks to tackle poverty and HIV/AIDS in rural Africa by educating girls and empowering women to become leaders of change. Herpresentation was entitled "CAMA - Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Ghana". From the Camfed website: "Angeline Murimirwa, née Mugwendere, was one of the first young women to receive support from Camfed to go to secondary school. She is now Regional Executive Director for Camfed Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Angeline became a founding member of [CAMA], dedicated to providing a support network for young women school-leavers in rural areas. An international speaker, Angeline has been elected onto the Board of the National Youth Council, represents Camfed on the UNAIDS Gender Task Force, and made a keynote presentation at the 2005 Global Exchange Forum hosted by the UK Foreign Policy Center. In 2006, she was awarded the Prize for Women's Creativity in Rural Life by the Women's World Summit Foundation in Switzerland."
Strategy overview: Among Mrs. Murimirwa's comments: In Malawi, two-thirds of girls out of school get married compared to 5% of girls in school. The experience of Camfed demonstrated that the longer a girl was in school, the less likely a girl was to be married early or to experience early motherhood. Mrs. Murimirwa was one of the first girls to be assisted through school by Camfed and understands from experience both girls’ desire for education and the enormous hurdles they face in securing their right to education. This African network of young women is working together to tackle the issues undermining girls’ education and welfare, including CEFM, in Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
Mrs. Murimirwa stressed that working with communities to address the social norms which perpetuated early and child marriage was essential for sustainable change. She spoke of ceasing to blame parents and starting to harness local activism for a brighter future for girls including education, which increases a girl’s earning potential and development prospects. The challenge is to protect girls from FGM and CEFM without having them ostracised from their communities. Communities need a safe space and respect to unlearn and relearn to protect their children and keep them in school. Mrs. Murimirwa asked how to bring about understanding among families so that those girls who do not undergo FGM will not be ostracised.
Camfed's rate of retention and progression of girls sponsored in school has been above 90%, which delays marriage and age of motherhood. This increases the earning power of girls. In Zimbabwe, 82% of women who were associated with the organisation as girls were breadwinners in their families, and 72% supported children outside the family or in extended family situations. "If we are going to address situations of poverty, of need, we must make sure that as many children stay in school as possible." She states that generational change is possible that will influence grandchildren and future generations to stay in school.
Camfed started in one school with 32 girls and now works in 5 countries in 5,085 schools. Since 1993 Camfed programmes have directly supported over 1,419,000 students to attend primary and Secondary school and over 3.5 million children have benefited from an improved learning environment. (Click here to access a video on the Camfed website.) "The result is a virtuous cycle of development, through which the investment in girls’ education pays ever-increasing dividends in the activism of educated young women, which in turn raises girls’ educational aspirations and success. They provide the financial resources to overcome that barrier and then work through national and local systems - with parents, teachers, government officials, and traditional authorities - to deliver them."
In 1998, 350 girls who had been educated through Camfed started a network, CAMA, to see what they could do to increase the momentum. CAMA is the peer support network designed for young women as they are leaving school. It has a growing pan-African membership that by 2014 numbered 24,436. Murimirwa expects the number to grow above 130,000 in 5 years. "CAMA members have personally experienced many of the world’s biggest challenges including child marriage, food insecurity, unemployment, HIV and human rights abuses. That personal knowledge and understanding is a powerful basis from which to engage with those in authority to find solutions." As recipients of educational aid, they are now active in making sure girls stay in school in order to insure that future generations stay in school and become productive members of their communities.
Overview of this Summit session: From the Girl Summit summary document: "The session considered the role of education, access to finance and cash transfers in empowering girls and women and providing them more voice, choice and control over their lives. The session heard from the experience of panellists on the impact of education and economic empowerment initiatives on early and child marriage. Supporting girls through education and training was an effective way of delaying the age of first marriage and motherhood and also increasing a girl’s earning power and prospects. Some initiatives were already working effectively at scale. To sustain change more needed to be done to engage with communities to address social norms to change these established cultural practices. Other complementary measures such as improving the quality of education and school safety, and supporting women leaders were also important to deliver sustainable change.""
The speakers for this session are:
Introduction: Irina Bokova, Director General, UNESCO.
Angeline Murimirwa, Regional Executive Director (Southern Africa), Camfed.
Roshni Sen, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare, Woman and Child Development, Government of West Bengal, India.
Dr. Priya Nanda, Group Director for Reproductive Health and Economic Development, ICRW Asia.
Sally Gear, Senior Education Adviser, Department for International Development.
"The session is moderated by Joy Hutcheon Director General Country Programmes, UK Department for International Development. Joy oversees DFID’s work in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, and is the Department’s lead on the priority area of improving the lives of Women and Girls. "
Footage of this (available below) and other "Spotlights" are available on DFID’s YouTube channel.
The Girl Summit is a project of DFID. Click here and scroll down to see the full list of individuals and organisations committed to working on girls' issues, as well as a list of Girl Summit Charter signatories.