Nest and Nurture
“Educate a boy and you educate an individual. Educate a girl and you educate a village.”
It makes sense that this oft-quoted statement comes out of Africa. This is where civilization has its most ancient roots. This is where people have had the most time to observe the nature of one another. I believe in listening to ancient wisdom. Why has this wisdom told us to pay attention to the educational needs of a girl?
Perhaps it’s about the nature of girls. I am female, so I can offer my opinion. Inherent in our psyche is the understanding of the principle of ‘nest and nurture’. We come fully equipped with an internal nest, a perfect environment for the development of offspring. We also have a built-in system that produces nutritionally powerful milk to nurture our young. This ‘nest and nurture’ mechanism, whether activated or not, is the reason why the education of a girl results in greater benefits for society. Females instinctively know the value of sharing.
However, a community suffers when the well-being of girls and women is compromised by the assumption that boys and men take priority because they are seen as the source of sustenance. Such short-sightedness! When education is seen as equally important for both boys and girls, then families can reach economic stability, communities can truly progress, and nations can attain prosperity.
Take the example of Annie Oakley. Her father died when she was a mere girl of nine years. She took his rifle down from above the mantle, trying hard in her grief to remember the lessons he had given her in shooting, and set out to hunt wild game to provide dinner for her mother and younger siblings. Good thing her father had educated her in the very skills that she would one day use to not only feed the family but to become one of the greatest entertainers of the Wild West!
This week, the fourth annual award for the WISE Prize for Education went to Ann Cotton, Founder and President of CAMFED (Campaign for Female Education). Here is a woman after my own heart. Since 1993, she has been forging a way for girls to receive an education in Africa. Ann Cotton exemplifies the ancient African proverb about educating a girl. Here is an excerpt from the press release:
Ann Cotton’s work to support community-owned, integrated education programmes for girls and young women in rural Africa was today recognised with the WISE Prize for Education.
“I am honoured to join education innovators like Vicky Colbert, Founder of Escuela Nueva in Colombia, Dr. Madhav Chavan, co-Founder of Pratham in India, and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder of BRAC in Bangladesh, as the fourth WISE Laureate,” says Ann Cotton.
The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) was established to place innovation in education at the forefront of the global agenda. Since its inception, the WISE Prize has been awarded to individuals whose education programmes reach the most marginalised communities.
Ann Cotton received the prize in recognition of her work with Camfed, the non-profit organisation she founded in 1993 after a research trip to Zimbabwe revealed to her that the biggest obstacle to girls’ secondary education in rural Africa was poverty, not resistance by parents or communities.
“Poor parents share the universal desire to educate their children,” said Ann. “Camfed works to transform this desire into action, in partnership with these families. Together we work to dismantle the material as well as psychological barriers that keep girls from achieving their full potential.”
Camfed reverses the cycle of poverty and inequality by supporting girls through school, and empowering young women to become leaders of change. Camfed invests in girls and women in the poorest rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa, where girls face acute disadvantage, and where their education has transformative potential.
An Integrated, Community-led Approach to Girls’ Education
Camfed’s programmes, which are implemented across 5,085 partner schools in 115 rural districts of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi, are owned and run by the communities. Camfed has an unrivalled infrastructure of partnerships, systems, community experts, and education activists. Most importantly, there has emerged the unique CAMA network of 24,436 educated young women, who are driving change by unlocking the huge potential of girls and young women through education and mentorship. Camfed is replacing an existing cycle of poverty and despair with a new cycle of prosperity and hope.
Supporting 1 Million Girls through Secondary School
“I accept this prize on behalf of the million girls Camfed is committed to supporting through secondary education in the next five years - a million girls whose poverty has so far robbed them of confidence and agency, and who do not yet know what an amazing transformation awaits them,” says Ann Cotton. “Just imagine one million girls in Africa, all of whom are from a background of rural poverty; all of whom understand the anxiety and the frustrations of poverty. Just imagine them working in the education and health systems, in politics, in journalism, in law, in engineering, in science – just imagine the power of what they can do to transform our world.”
Here is a link to some of the girls' stories.
To learn more about CAMFED, click here.