The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is pleased to announce that CAMFED, the Campaign for Female Education, a pan-African movement revolutionizing how girls’ education is delivered, has been selected as the 2021 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize recipient and will receive $2.5 million in funding.  As the world’s largest annual humanitarian award presented to a nonprofit, the Hilton Humanitarian Prize recognizes extraordinary contributions toward alleviating human suffering. To date, the Hilton Foundation has awarded more than $39 million to recipients of the Prize. CAMFED joins the roster of 25 Prize Laureates, including Homeboy IndustriesMETAdrasiSHOFCOicddr,b and The Task Force for Global Health, among others.

“They elected me because of the advocacy I was doing… [and] because they know that I would be able to bring something back to the community. My community members say it’s because of me girls are now in school. The role I am playing in the community motivates other girls to follow in my footsteps.” – Hawa Tambo Alhassan. 

L to R: Memunatu*, Hawa Tambo Alhassan, Janet* and Ayisha*. The first girl in her community to complete secondary school, and now an elected district councillor, Hawa Tambo Alhassan continues to mentor girls at her former high school in Karaga District, Ghana. Having grown up in the community she now represents, Hawa has firsthand experience of the challenges her constituents face and a deep-seated desire to bring about lasting change. 
Photo by Eliza Powell.
*Last name withheld for privacy

“The Jury’s selection of CAMFED as the recipient of the 2021 Hilton Humanitarian Prize speaks first and foremost to its community-led approach and to the power of investing in girls,” said Peter Laugharn, president and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “CAMFED has revolutionized how girls’ education is delivered, tapping into local expertise in a way that is sustainable and scalable. Further, the pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on families and girls, with estimates that 11 million girls may not return to school as a result of the crisis. The time for the global community to learn from this model is now.”

CAMFED was founded in 1993 in response to the scale of girls’ exclusion from education, and in recognition of the transformative benefits that accrue when the right to education is secured for all girls. What began in Zimbabwe as a program supporting 32 girls in two schools has now become a movement that has already supported more than 4.8 million disadvantaged students in 6,787 schools across 163 districts in Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. 

CAMFED’s model, which has been thoroughly tested and refined, provides financial and social support for girls to attend and thrive in primary and secondary school. Post-school, CAMFED provides business training, finance, and support for young women to access higher education and employment opportunities, so that they can safely transition to a secure and fulfilling adulthood. Those joining the CAMFED Association, the pan-African peer support and leadership network, commit to mentoring and supporting each other, as well as the next generation, as they grow into respected role models in their communities, working to secure every child’s right to go to school, and change the status quo for girls for good.

The CAMFED Association, founded in 1998, now includes 178,000 young women who serve as mentors and trainers, work as teachers, health care workers, and climate-smart entrepreneurs,      and each support with their own resources another three girls – on average – to go to school each year. 

Data compiled by CAMFED and others demonstrates significant improvements in school attendance and retention rates for girls supported by CAMFED, reduced school dropout rates, an increase in student learning outcomes, and an increase in the age of marriage and first-time birth. There are numerous examples of CAMFED Association leaders sharing their expertise in national and international fora and engaging with local, national and global policymakers. CAMFED’s community-based model has sustained and evolved to become a locally led organization that perpetuates a virtuous cycle of prosperity, equality, and hope, led by young women.

CAMFED’s Executive Director, Angeline Murimirwa, was one of the first young women to receive support from CAMFED to go to secondary school and is a founding member of the CAMFED Association. She now oversees the delivery of CAMFED’s mission, working closely with all CAMFED offices. Angeline understands from experience both the desire for education and the enormous hurdles girls face in securing their right to education. 

“We are thrilled to have this recognition at this critical moment,” said Angeline Murimirwa, CAMFED Executive Director – Africa. “So much is at stake. Around the world we are faced with the question: ‘How do we navigate the impact of COVID-19 and climate change without turning back the clock on women and girls?’ The Hilton Humanitarian Prize shines a bright light on our movement, rising from Africa. This Prize belongs to our communities, for rallying around the education and leadership of young women who know intimately what poverty and exclusion feel like, and what it takes for girls to succeed. Because when girls succeed, and women lead, we can tackle the world’s most intractable challenges together.”

The CAMFED model of investing in girls’ education from childhood through their formative years, with a focus on celebrating the agency of the next generation of female leaders, is a proven success even in the face of adversity. As a result, the organization has been recognized by notable leaders and thinkers across the globe.

“CAMFED has demonstrated an ability to make a large-scale difference to girls’ lives through education,” said The Honourable Julia Gillard AC, 27th Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Global Partnership for Education. “I have been truly impressed by their approach to scaling their model while retaining an unremitting focus on reaching girls who are the most vulnerable and ‘invisible.’ Their results are well-evidenced, sustainable and replicable, and the societal consequences are deep and profound. CAMFED is creating a movement of future leaders who I believe have the potential to transform a continent. I am thrilled to see this recognized by the Hilton Humanitarian Prize.” 

Each year, the Hilton Foundation reviews nomination submissions from notable nonprofits throughout the world, and an independent, international panel of distinguished jurors makes the final selection after a rigorous vetting process. The following individuals served on the 2021 Hilton Humanitarian Prize jury: The Right Honourable Helen Clark; Leymah Gbowee; Steven M. Hilton; Her Majesty Queen Noor; Mark Rosenberg, M.D., M.P.P; Zainab Salbi; Ann M. Veneman; and Dr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León.

In place of what has previously been an in-person Prize ceremony and symposium, this year, the Hilton Foundation will once again host a virtual Prize ceremony and an online conversation series in partnership with Devex under the theme “The Future of Humanitarian Action: The Power of Communities.” The Prize Ceremony will take place virtually on Wednesday, October 13, followed by the conversation series later in the fall.

Nominations for the 2022 Hilton Humanitarian Prize will be open August 19, 2021, through September 29, 2021.