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
MSG members from Wedza District, Zimbabwe