Sarah Brown pays tribute to WISE Prize winner – Camfed founder Ann Cotton

Girls' education, Sarah Brown

The WISE Prize, established by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, can rightly claim, after just a few short years, to be the premier award for global education.

Over the last three years, the WISE Prize has recognised great champions of education dedicated to providing the most vulnerable children with access, quality of learning and equity.

This year I am so delighted to see my fellow Brit and the founder of Camfed (Campaign for Female Education), Ann Cotton OBE, honoured as the 2014 WISE Prize winner. Ann – one of the most humble and self-effacing high achievers I have ever met – has forged a determined path over 30 years to enable girls and young women to have the opportunity of an education.

When I first met Ann in the mid-1990s, she had just established Camfed to support school places for girls in Africa and was meeting everyone she could to expand her vision to remove the barriers of poverty and injustice that prevented marginalised girls from going to school.

She was very convincing in making the case for the positive social impact and economic importance of investing in girls.

Since then our paths have, unsurprisingly, crossed numerous times over the years, often on a stage when I would present Ann with another accolade – whether Woman of the Year in the UK or during the United Nations’ annual meetings in New York.

Today her personal view is very much the accepted common wisdom embraced by governments, businesses and communities – but there is still a way to go to reach 33 million girls who miss out on school around the world.

Camfed itself – with a loyal team led by CEO Lucy Lake – has grown from its early beginnings to today’s programmes that benefit more than three million children and a vibrant alumnae programme, CAMA, with over 25,000 graduates across Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

This is what the WISE Prize has recognised today and, of course, its potential to do more.

Her Highness Sheika Mozah is known for her philanthropy in every part of the world and is a leader in her focus on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals in conflict countries where children and education are under unprecedented attack.

The recognition that the WISE Prize brings to Camfed will surely bring greater progress and the chance for many more girls to go to school and have the chance to fulfill their potential.

Sarah Brown is co-founder of A World at School and President of Theirworld. To support the drive to get every child into school you can add your voice to the #UpForSchool Petition.

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