Plenary session by Ann Cotton

Session description

Ann Cotton

Session details:

Plenary session by session by Ann Cotton
Ann Cotton is Founder and President of Camfed, an international non-profit organisation tackling poverty and inequality in sub-Saharan Africa by supporting girls to go to school and succeed, and empowering young women to step up as leaders of change. The organisation’s unique approach is to not only support girls and young women through school, but also on to new lives as entrepreneurs and community leaders. To complete the “virtuous cycle”, graduating students become Cama alumnae, many of whom return to school to train and mentor new generations of students. More than 3 million children have already benefited from Camfed’s programmes in a network of 5,085 partner schools across Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi. In 2014 Camfed was recognized by the OECD for best practice in taking development innovation to scale, and Ann Cotton received the WISE Prize for Education.

The justice and imperative of girls’ secondary school education – a model of action
In the theatre of international development, girls' education has moved from the wings to centre stage in the last 25 years. Ann Cotton will chart this change and both the philosophical underpinnings and utilitarian arguments that have propelled it. Camfed's work is driven by the right to education of every child, and the delivery of that right. Its work has demonstrated that girls' exclusion from education is rooted in family poverty and the enforced decisions as to which child should go to school. Ann will explore the arguments that variously place culture, traditional mores and poverty at the root of girls' educational exclusion. The address will describe how Camfed has worked with rural communities in five African countries - Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe - where family poverty is endemic. The Camfed Model works in a full partnership with Ministries of Education, traditional and faith-based leaders, head teachers and teachers, parents and children. This inclusion is a fundamental principle of the Model and one that shows evidence-based results in delivering sustainable systemic change. Ann Cotton will illuminate the systems and processes that have been built to ensure transparency and accountability first and foremost to the child, Camfed's primary client. Ann will describe the different forms of capital that Camfed recognises respects and extends - capital that includes knowledge, social and institutional capital. The address will conclude with the analysis of Cama, the alumnae organisation of Camfed secondary school graduates that is more than 25,000-strong, explaining the depth of empathy and analysis members bring to the stage as we work to establish and build health and education systems that serve the needs of everyone.

ALSO WATCH: Interview with Ann Cotton


In Europe, some of Ann's ideas could be applied to the plight of Roma girls, most living now in dire poverty, the pan-European subalterns, from Edirne in Turkey to Ireland.  Many drop out of school before age 11, for reasons that include extreme poverty, especially since the resurrection of the 'free-market' economy after 1989 ---  but also traditional attempts by families to preserve their daughter's virginity, particularly now when sexual encounters have multiplied in schools since the 'defeat' of socialism in Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria and elsewhere, ask any teacher in a rural or majority working-class school.        

Here a relevant article on Roma girls, centering on Romania:  Few have any knowledge of a Western second language of wider communication, although they may venture westward as sex workers, or are even trafficked into this. Kyuchukov (2011) suggests this pressure by families to take girls out of school early is lessening:  But this remains difficult to research by 'questionnaire', as Ann Cotton alludes to regarding other social attitudes and our Western 'knowledge capital'.   It is probably accurate to posit that the lowest levels of any knowledge of English as a 'lingua franca' today in Eastern Europe can be found among Roma younger girls and teens in rural settings prior to migration. This certainly can be changed, but the walls of 'intersectional' discrimination, not addressed by Ann, remain formidable. These girls are marginalized not just by gender, but by ethnicity, and clearly by lowest socioeconomic class.  The question Mike Solly raises about what 'knowledge' Bangladeshi migrant laborers need, what kind and level, for example of English, can also be researched regarding the Roma, the new vaga-bonds (Z. Bauman) and their mounting vaga-bondage westward. Listen to Mike's Manchester interview: .