Featured in Asian News: Asia has become the largest recipient of sponsorship from the UK based charity Commonwealth Girls Education Fund (CGEF), formerly the Commonwealth Countries League Education Fund (CCLEF). The charity provides funding for the secondary education of capable girls who for financial reasons would otherwise be unable to attend school.
CGEF is entirely funded by donations and fund raising activities, and employs just one part time member of staff, who supports the efforts of the voluntary Board of Trustees. The charity has been historically well supported by members of both the business and social Asian communities. Most recently they were awarded a grant of £1000 by the Women’s India Association.
The charity also benefits from outstanding voluntary efforts from Asian individuals based in the UK. Their London 10k run campaign was led this year by 22 year old law student Jagravi Upadhyay. Under her superb voluntary leadership, the run raised a record amount for the charity, she was also a member of the organisational team for “Splendours of the Commonwealth” a glittering fundraising evening held in September at The May Fair hotel, London.
Jagravi was recently elected to the CGEF Board of Trustees, becoming their youngest Asian trustee in many years.
CGEF aims to raise enough funds to support around 450 girls. The cost of sponsoring this number of girls for five years of secondary education is over £500,000.
India currently benefits from having the largest number of CGEF sponsored girls in the Commonwealth, including a small group of very capable blind girls. The charity aims to continue to increase its numbers in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Penny O'Regan, 2015 CCLEF Chairperson and Judith Fisher, CCLEF Hon Treasurer met with the Ghanaian High Commission to discuss the CCLEF's sponsorships for girls' education in Ghana. During their meeting, the Ghana High Commission (HC) informed CCLEF that their government has committed to funding secondary education fees, excluding boarding fees, for every child in Ghana from September 2015.
In recent reports, the UN has stated that Ghana is making "strong progress" in education. This approach was confirmed as CCLEF heard that tertiary education is more accessible to bright students in Ghana with the availability of loans and other sources. Ghana is also appearing to be making good progress in getting women into government roles.
The HC also discussed the ongoing CCLEF contribution to girls' education in Ghana and showed that in fact, schools that have a connection with CCLEF are spread throughout Ghana and can be found from Ankara to the Eastern areas. The news of the Ghanaian government's committment to funding secondary education fees was welcomed and CCLEF reaffirmed its committment to helping girls in Ghana. CCLEF understands that the girls' personal needs extend beyond just paying the fees and the Trustees are committed to helping them with whatever their needs are.
Dear CCLEF Supporters,
We’ve been busy! Busy reading school reports and letters from girls seeking renewal of sponsorship for another year in Granada, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Lesotho, Nigeria, Swaziland, St Kitts, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, St Lucia, Rwanda and Zambia.
We are continually uplifted by the girls and what they write to us– do read on if you’d like to share a glimpse of the ambition and determination of young women across the globe girls who are enthused and grateful for your support.
Belinda in Zimbabwe says she can now “do everything to my level best because there is someone out there who believes in me.”
Charity from St Vincent and the Grenadines came top of her class and her classmate Angela assures us that being able to “buy my exercise books, other stationery, my literature books, school shoes, bags and uniforms will make things better and I will be able to attend school regularly and so perform better at school”.
Lehlomo from Swaziland wrote “I am often expelled from school because [my parents] do not have the money to pay my school fees but this year….I am sure I am going to pass”.
From Kenya, Maryann wisely advised us “I have had to adapt to the new environment of secondary school”, Hannah aspires to be a journalist and Glory tells us that her school marks very hard in an effort to make the girls work harder and remain competitive.
In Grenada, Nicola aims to be an archaeologist as she likes learning historical facts and writes that she “appreciates her parents’ love and sacrifice [to pay school fees] but sponsorship gives me added impetus”.
Lindy in Swaziland wants to be a pilot and writes “if it wasn’t for you, maybe I would have dropped out of school, who knows?”
From Nigeria, Dolly admits “I used to miss class as a result of my mother’s inability to pay my school fees, but now I walk freely with my friends without being ashamed”.
From Ghana, Grace, full of determination, tells us “I wish to become a teacher, It is my intention to help reduce the illiteracy rate in my country”. Equally determined Elspeth wrote “My aim is to be a journalist. I am a girl who wants to be heard and I do not hide this skill.”
We’re looking for supporters who are willing to run 10km in order to raise funds to keep girls like these in school. The CCLEF enters a team of 24 runners in the British 10kLondon Run Sunday 12th July. Please do be in contact with Jagravi, our wonderful volunteer at if you would like to join us. General information about the event can be found at http://www.thebritish10klondon.co.uk
We have recently heard about CCLEF Alumnae who have become or are studying to become a nurse, builder, lawyer, secondary teacher, policewoman, doctor, environmental scientist, HIV/Aids Health Coordinator, and an economist – clearly the girls make best use of their opportunities!
Finally, I return to Belinda from Zimbabwe who says her current inspiring saying is “Be like a postage stamp, stick to the envelope until you get there” – that, I think, is exactly what our sponsored girls do if they possibly, possibly can.
My very best wishes to you all and thank you as ever for your support,
PS: If you would like to make a donation and help to keep these girls in school, please do so via our website at www.cgefund.org I have also attached the regular donation form – thank you.
Nancy Tomee is a CGEF (formerly the CCLEF) sponsored girl who is fighting against Female Genital Mutilation (FMG).
This is a special short documentary on Nancy and education, specially made for the CGEF. Nancy: A One Girl Revolution is the story of Nancy Tomee (20), who for the last decade has fought her family, her tribe and deeply held traditions in Kenya. A brilliant speaker and a fearless taboo breaker she is leading a girl revolution - yet she’s still a schoolgirl. She wants to stop Female Genital Mutilation and promote equality for girls. Filmed over five years, this is the intimate story of her emerging as a leader - an African Suffragist facing the enormous task of transforming her tribe.
An unusual heroine, Nancy’s journey takes her from a mud hut in a remote part of Kenya to addressing the United Nations in New York at the General Assembly. This is Nancy’s true story told in a feature length observational documentary. It will make visible in intimate detail the lives of women who rarely, if ever, are heard. The battleground for Nancy is women’s ownership of their bodies and voices. There will be an impact campaign attached to help eradicate FGM and empower more female role models. The film is still being made but we do need your support to continue. Nancy's story is powerful and unique, and when you see the documentary, you can see why it had to be told.
The producer told us in her own moving words what prompted her to produce this film. "When in 2010 I walked into Nancy’s parents' compound, high on a far hill, miles away from any roads or modern amenities, I realised that within Nancy was a deep desire for change. This came from the knowledge that the life her mother suffered was abusive. It suffocated her potential, and even if it was ‘normal’ and traditional, it was wrong. She is in many ways an African Suffragist, for the themes of her desires are the same - equality and education for women and an end to the abuse. What astonished me then, and still does now, is where she found the courage to resist everyone and have such certainty about doing so."
"I could see the passion burning inside her. I had to tell her story; I could see she was on an archetypal journey of transformation and awakening to her own power - but not to empower herself, but to help others. I felt a real kinship with her which seemed to transcend race, culture and generation. When she found her voice she helped others find theirs; she chose to own her own body and sexuality as a woman which was very unusual for women in her tribe."
"The film will tease out Nancy’s connections to a much wider voice in which women are emerging to challenge the old political paradigms all over the world and demanding the inclusion of women to shape the world into a better place. Nancy has no idea of these global movements to get the feminine voice heard as a balance to the masculine yet I believe Nancy is part of this awakening of women everywhere. In the film I hope to show how we have far more in common with Nancy’s story than we at first imagine. The fears about women may be magnified in Nancy’s tribe but the same dynamics play out in more subtle ways across the western world. Nancy’s culture magnifies issues that are just less extreme within our own culture, and I want people to feel the empathy and connection I have with her from the film. That way, her story spreads to a much wider audience and her impact can be profound and positive."
The CCLEF, in collaboration with the India Association for the Blind, is sponsoring five blind girls at St Amalarakkini school in Tamil Nadu, India.
The CCLEF has also undertaken to sponsor an additional five girls in 2016 and 2017 bringing the total number of blind girls sponsored in that school to 15.
In India, Tamil Naud is the 11th largest state by area and the sixth most populous state.
The photos show CCLEF Trustee Anne Munt Davies who attended the opening ceremony of the new residential block, named in honour of Niti Patel, on 21 March 2015.
Niti's husband, DK Patel, pictured with Anne, raised the funds for the building with friends and supporters based in Hong Kong.
You are Invited !
Run by the Royal Commonwealth Society since 1883, the Commonwealth Essay Competition is the world’s largest schools’ international writing competition and is open to all young people aged 18 and under. This year’s theme, 'A Young Commonwealth', recognises that young people account for the majority of the Commonwealth’s population and play a vital role in shaping the world that we live in, now and in years to come.
The Royal Commonwealth Society is inviting young people to share their hopes and concerns for the future, thereby generating an important youth perspective and Commonwealth wide dialogue as the international community gathers to set development goals for the next 15 years.
The 2015 competition invites young people to submit essays relating to this year’s theme, 'A Young Commonwealth’. The Queen’s Essay Competition 2015 is run by the Royal Commonwealth Society in partnership with Cambridge University Press.
The closing date for entries is May 1st 2015. Further information can be found at www.thercs.org/youth.
Twitter: @The RCSLondon