Skoll Foundation


Campaign for Female Education

Skoll Awardee(s): Ann Cotton
Award Year: 2005
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Education

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“The investment in girls’ education is the best investment a country can make. Coming out of school, these girls are aspiring to be doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, developing the social fabric of their communities.  They will change the world, and make sure that the next generation is not born into poverty.”

Around the world, tens of millions of children, many of them girls, do not go to school. This represents lost opportunity not only for the girls themselves, but for the communities that would benefit from their leadership and contributions.

The Skoll Awardee:  Educator Ann Cotton traveled to Zimbabwe in 1991 to study the problems that keep girls out of school.  She learned that the conventional wisdom was wrong: poverty, not culture, was the true barrier. Families with limited resources for school fees and other costs chose to invest in boys, who had a better chance to get jobs.  She started Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) in 1993, raising money through bake sales to pay school fees for 32 girls. CAMFED developed a model to address both cultural and financial barriers, going beyond scholarships to weave a network of support around each child and support her education as far as she wants to go. The governance model engages families and communities to support groups of girls, who also support each other in a virtuous cycle of educational achievement, female leadership, and commitment to girls’ education.  By 2005, CAMFED had an alumnae network of 4,700 girls and young women, and had provided material support such as uniforms, books, and fees for more than 240,000 girls in some 1,000 schools in four countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2005:

  • Played a significant role in Zambia’s adoption of its Child Protection policy
  • Expanded program to Malawi and Ghana, alumnae network expanded to 19,550
  • School network expanded to 4,743
  • In 2013, 2 million girls received material support to stay in school, including 105,000 who received bursaries to attend secondary school. These girls recorded a 90 percent attendance rate.
  • Nearly 4,000 girls progressing to the highest level of secondary education in 2013



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.