LONDON, United Kingdom — Often the principal aim of nonprofit organizations advocating for girls’ education is to improve girls’ access to education. But, when a beneficiary of such efforts continues the aims of the organization in their personal life, it depicts just how impactful the organization is to begin with. Exactly this happened with Natasha Mabuza, a CAMFED beneficiary who has gone on to become a powerful advocate for Girls’ education in Africa.
CAMFED and Natasha Mabuza
CAMFED, a nonprofit organization based in Zimbabwe but operating in several African countries, describes its work on its website: “CAMFED catalyzes the power of the most vulnerable girls and young women to create the future they imagine — for themselves, for their communities, and for Africa.” To accomplish this, CAMFED targets young females from poor, rural areas within sub-Saharan Africa who grapple with issues of poverty and gender that prevent them from accessing education and opportunities. CAMFED recognizes poverty as a significant “barrier to education” and a driving force behind hunger, period poverty and early marriage.
Natasha Mabuza was one of the young Zimbabwean girls facing such odds. Growing up with her grandmother, she witnessed her grandmother striving to provide her with an education despite facing issues of poverty and inequality. During Mabuza’s childhood, she sold roasted groundnuts that her grandmother grew to help raise funds for her primary school fees. The ambition and hardworking nature of her grandmother inspired the same qualities in Mabuza.
After being inspired by her uncle to become an accountant, Mabuza sought to turn that dream into a reality despite the subject’s difficulty and the regular absences of accounting teachers at her school. Mabuza sought to pursue it by any means necessary and used a workbook to teach herself. It was not until secondary school that Mabuza ran out of money and had to drop out of school. Her big dreams of becoming an accountant came crashing down.
CAMFED Steps in
At this point, CAMFED stepped in to help Mabuza. Mabuza’s agriculture educator, a CAMFED-trained Teacher Mentor, and Mabuza’s local community “recommended Natasha to receive support from CAMFED through junior and senior high school.”
With the support of CAMFED, after high school, Mabuza applied to study Management Information Systems at Ashesi University in Ghana. Mabuza received support from her CAMFED Associated sisters in the form of donations of money, shoes and clothes. In addition, the Mastercard Foundation provided Mabuza with a scholarship to fund her tertiary studies.
During her years at Ashesi University, Mabuza developed several leadership skills. Her role model today is the Asheshi University founder Patrick Awuah, who also received an international scholarship for his tertiary studies. Upon his return to Ghana in 1997, Awuah created Ashesi University, “a new kind of university, espousing ethics, innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership.”
An Advocate for Girls’ Education in Africa
Now, Mabuza is regarded as a significant role model for many young people in her community, girls in particular. After high school, Mabuza joined the CAMFED Association of women leaders. As part of this network, Mabuza and other members sought to give back to their communities and collectively strive for girls’ education in Africa.
Two years into her degree at Ashesi University, during the summer of 2015, Mabuza spent her semester break interning with CAMFED Zimbabwe. Through this experience, she flourished, becoming a major advocate for girls’ education in Africa.
Over that summer, Mabuza participated in initiatives such as high-profile meetings with government officials, ministries, school representatives, and parents from the areas where CAMFED works. Additionally, Mabuza received invitations to speak to hundreds of students at her primary school and secondary school and met with some of the most vulnerable girls within the CAMFED program.
Through these opportunities, Mabuza shared her story and the importance of education and sought to empower students in their education through her words of wisdom. “Your background does not determine your destination, it’s just a transit,” Mabuza says on the CAMFED website.
Mabuza motivated different groups for different purposes. Regarding government officials, she encouraged them to invest in their communities and in education. For parents, she highlighted the importance of sending their children to school, while for students, Mabuza highlighted the right to education along with “the responsibility to learn.”
Future Plans and Goals
Mabuza has plenty of goals that she wishes to accomplish in the future, hoping to strengthen girls’ education in Africa. Mabuza yearns to respond to the various major obstacles to girls’ education in Zimbabwe like poverty, hunger, inequality and child marriage. Being among the first CAMFED Association members to enter the information technology field, Mabuza has great “ambitions for Africa’s youth.”
To achieve this, Mabuza commits to continuing to help others, by building a network of young people and informing them of how they can reach their goals irrespective of their background. Mabuza has aspiring dreams of building the “largest youth development center in Africa” to help connect and inspire young people, grounding them in skills of “leadership, entrepreneurship, collaborative action and community service.” All her ambitions tie to her desire to make her grandmother proud and create lasting change in Africa.
– Claudia Efemini