Funding story: Africa

Comic Relief and Associated Country Women of the World are funding projects to support women in Africa.

Comic Relief recently made a £4m grant to projects to improve the education of girls in Nigeria and Tanzania. By contrast, Associated Country Women of the World, an international charity for rural women, seldom makes grants of much more than £4,000. The outlay is very different, but the outlook is the same - changing individual women's lives in order to kick-start an economic and social transformation.

ACWW has been a women-only organisation ever since it was established in the 1930s by the International Council of Women. It has awarded grants since 1977. The most recent funding round, approved in March, includes £1,221 for a pickle-making project in India, £2,923 for a tailoring project in Burundi and £2,353 to provide latrines in a poor area of Uganda. "We find that groups of women can do a lot with what seems like a very small amount of money," says Juliet Childs, projects committee secretary at the charity.

The Comic Relief grant has gone to Transforming Education for Girls, a five-year programme supported by ActionAid and implemented by two African charities - Maarifa in Tanzania and Community Action for Popular Participation in Nigeria. It will make it possible for more than 60,000 girls to go to school for the first time by providing training for teachers and resources for schools, and by working with the teachers' unions in both countries.

Shared among this number of young women, £4m doesn't look such a large sum. "A donation that size could build lots of schools or hospitals that look good in the short term, but soon suffer because of the lack of follow-up support," says Thalia Griffiths, a journalist who has written widely about Africa. "This kind of investment looks small, but this stuff is what makes a difference."

David Archer, head of international education at ActionAid, says: "We've spent years building schools in Africa, but we found we had no impact on achievement because we were building them in a bubble isolated from government policy. In places, it was policy to charge for children's education, and that meant girls were the first to be pulled out of school.

"We'll be working in some of the most challenging areas and demonstrating that relatively modest investment can produce long-standing change."

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