Campaign for Female Education (Camfed)

In Africa, where girls have least access to education and are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, Camfed's mission is to increase girls' access to education and economic opportunity and to accelerate the benefits to individuals, their families and communities. Camfed's vision is of a world in which every child is educated, protected, respected and valued, and grows up to turn the tide of poverty.
Oct 26, 2010

Mothers Supporting Orphans and Vulnerable Children Through School

We are delighted to share this update about Mother Support Groups in Zimbabwe, who are helping children stay in school with support from GlobalGiving.

Background on Mother Support Groups

Mother Support Groups (MSG) are made up of volunteer mothers and grandmothers in rural communities where Camfed works. Although most do not have a formal education, these women recognize the importance of sending children to school and are dedicated to helping orphans and other children in need. They achieve this by engaging in income-generating projects, which then allow them to provide children with essentials like school supplies, uniforms, groceries and moral support. To date there are more than 1,605 Mother Support Groups in Zimbabwe.

Accolades for Mother Support Groups

MSGs touch children’s lives in tangible and intangible ways, which is why their work is so important. Noriah, a member of the Rudo MSG in Guruve District, says, “Before the MSG was formed we would see children suffering, but all we could do was sympathize with them. Now we don’t just sympathize, we are assisting the children by paying school fees, sewing uniforms for them and buying them exercise books and pens. It brings us all great satisfaction.”

The skirt and blouse Faith, a girl in Buhera District, received from the local MSG allowed her to feel confident at school. Previously she avoided standing up in front of her peers at school because of her torn dress. Similarly, Mr. J. Makusha, headmaster at Nyahunzvi Primary School in Guruve District, says the school supplies provided by the local MSG “go a long way in assisting the needy.”

Continuing the Work of Mother Support Groups

Members of Mother Support Groups continue to need support on various levels to enable them to continue serving their communities. Activities you can help provide include:

  1. Skills training in soap making and basket weaving to help diversify members’ income- generating activities
  2. Grants for outstanding MSGs to recognize their efforts and allow them to expand their initiatives
  3. Training in women’s rights around issues like gender-based violence, inheritance and marriage laws as well as child protection.

Thank you for your support to help Mother Support Groups care for children in their communities. Through these groups, dedicated women are serving as mentors and role models for children and ensuring that they have all the supplies they need to stay in school and succeed.

Jul 14, 2010

Interim Report on Zimbabwe

Abibata, Member of a Camfed Mother Support Group
Abibata, Member of a Camfed Mother Support Group

In 1993, Ann Cotton raised money to support 32 girls through school in Zimbabwe, launching Camfed, the Campaign for Female Education. Since then, despite the socioeconomic situation in Zimbabwe, we’ve significantly increased our programs. To date, we’ve helped 398,000 children through our educational programs in Zimbabwe. For 15,284 girls, we provided full scholarships through high school. We also built hostels so girls would no longer have to walk long, unsafe distances to get to school, improving their chances of academic success.

Schools are so much more than a place of learning for students in Zimbabwe. They are a safe haven, and without them, children are vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation. During 2009, as prices fluctuated dramatically and drought destroyed subsistence farmers’ crops, poverty overwhelmed families in rural areas. Some children supplemented family income with dangerous jobs such as gold or diamond mining. Others took on low-wage jobs as maids while many were at the mercy of cross border gangs who lured girls into prostitution.

This situation served to increase the need for support for Zimbabwe in 2009, and Camfed’s commitment during the year was an important symbol of stability for localcommunities. Camfed improved the learning environment in schools for 623,800 children in 2009, over two and a half times the number reached in 2008. Vital work to keep vulnerable girls in school continued in the face of adversity, due to the firm resolve of Camfed Zimbabwe staff in partnership with rural communities.

So far in 2010, communities are uniting to protect girls’ right to education In response to increased economic hardship, including Camfed’s network of 1,135 Mother Support Groups. They're establishing innovative ways to rally communities to support the education system and help as many children as possible.

Elsewhere, several severely under-resourced school hostels have begun to require each student to bring a basket of food. This is a huge challenge for many families. In response, Camfed-supported groups have rallied together to contribute what they can to provide the girls with the food baskets necessary to continue in school. In Wedza District, the Gumbonzvanda Secondary School Mother Support Group is providing girls at the local school hostel with baskets of food.Rosemary Mukwenya, chairperson, explained how concern was translated into action: “When I heard about the dilemma the Gumbonzvanda girls’ hostel was going through I was pained. I told my group members about it and explained to them my intentions of assisting them, which they gladly seconded. That’s how it happened: we began mobilizing the community to assist Wedza in any way possible.”

When their own crops failed in the drought, they began to exchange their own property for food for the girls. News of their struggle reached neighbouring Guruve District, where local Mother Support Groups organized donations of maize, soya beans, vegetables and other goods to help their struggling neighbours in Wedza. Their activism demonstrates the community solidarity and determination to keep vulnerable children in school.

In established partner districts, Camfed’s support has long been available to help parents organize into Mother Support Groups (and more recently Father Support Groups) with links to schools. Camfed’s research in 2009 indicates that in these districts, statistically more parents contributed – in cash or in kind – to help keep schools open and support vulnerable girls, than in communities of newly-established program districts.

Community groups established by Camfed have demonstrated inspiring levels of resilience and resourcefulness when facing the severe challenges of recent years, and their activism and philanthropy continues to multiply the impact of Camfed’s work. Twenty four percent of students sampled in Camfed’s 2009 survey said they knew at least one family who had been helped by a Mother Support Group. There are nearly 15,000 Mother Support Group members in Zimbabwe today, with 103 new groups forming in 2009 alone, and many more so far in 2010.

Gumbonzvanda Secondary School Mother Support Group
Gumbonzvanda Secondary School Mother Support Group
MSG members from Wedza District, Zimbabwe
MSG members from Wedza District, Zimbabwe


Dec 17, 2008

Zimbabwe: Compassion in a Time of Crisis

As I write to you, the crisis in Zimbabwe is worsening daily. A paralysis of systems—electricity, water, sanitation and health care—is making people’s lives ever more painful. Cholera, the disease of extreme poverty, is creeping across the country. In the rural areas, people rise before dawn to get to the wild fruits before the baboons, so they will have food for the day. Clinics have no treatment to offer the sick.

Speaking with one of our Zimbabwean colleagues, I asked her what keeps people going. She said, “What I love about my people is that they are so creative. They don’t stop at the hurdles. They go under or around them. We know this time will pass. Nothing is forever.”

As you read about the acts of compassion that are occurring each day around Zimbabwe, as you read the firsthand accounts from Camfed staff members on the ground, I hope you will agree with me that Zimbabweans need all the support we can provide them. For children in Zimbabwe, school is a lifeline. Without our help, that lifeline is in jeopardy of disappearing.

Ann Cotton Executive Director, Camfed International