Founder of Camfed awarded the 2014 WISE Prize for Education

Ms Ann Cotton, Founder and President of Camfed, has been awarded the 2014 WISE Prize for Education. The Prize was presented by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, at the sixth World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in Doha, Qatar on 4 November 2014.

For more than two decades, Ann Cotton has led efforts to improve opportunities for girls and young women at the margins of education. Her commitment to girls’ education in Africa began in 1991 when she visited Zimbabwe to investigate why girls’ school enrolment in rural areas was so low. She learned that poverty, rather than cultural issues, was the main factor keeping girls out of school.

Cotton knew that girls could be educated if supported by their communities. She understood they could be empowered to shape their own destinies and change their communities. In 1993 Cotton founded the Campaign for Female Education, which was co-designed with communities to fully suit their needs. The organization’s unique, holistic approach breaks the cycle of poverty, child marriage, high birth rates and high rates of HIV/AIDS by working in partnership with all the constituencies that have power over a girl’s education and life choices

One of the most effective and innovative results of Camfed’s work is Cama, a unique 24,436 -member strong pan-African network of Camfed graduates. Cama alumnae often return to school to train and mentor new generations of students.

Innovative, community-led education programs have already benefitted over three million children in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania, and Malawi and are implemented across 5,085 partner schools in 115 rural districts.

In receiving the WISE Prize for Education, Ann Cotton said: “I am honoured to join education innovators like Ms Vicky Colbert, Dr. Madhav Chavan, and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed as the fourth WISE Prize for Education Laureate. 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.”