Education for Women in villages
Project location: CONGO, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
Project start date: March 2009 - Project end date: March 2010
Project number: 2008-48
The project aims at teaching literacy and numeracy skills to women in concerned villages where the rate of illiteracy range 3 out of 5 women in the region are unable to read and write. The project goals of functional literacy program are: to increase the number of literate women in concerned villages; to contribute to women's personal development; to increase the involvement of women in society. In order to reach as many beneficiaries as possible, the project works through training volunteer instructors who in turn deliver the course material to the target group of women. The program, which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, first trains volunteer instructors through a functional literacy seminar. Subsequently, each volunteer instructor runs literacy courses reaching 15 women participants in a period of 3 months (meeting 3 times each week for 3-4 hour sessions).
According to UNESCO, in the world today there are about 1 billion non-literate adults. This 1 billion is approximately 26 percent of the world's adult population. Women make up two-thirds of all non-literates while 98 percent of all non-literates live in developing countries. Development agencies have found two predictable indicators for longevity among women in developing countries: accessible clean water and literacy skills. Another well-known fact is that in some societies, discrimination exists in educational opportunities based on a gender bias. The consequences become evident in the numbers as UNESCO statistics highlight that among the 1 billion illiterates in the world, two thirds of them are women. Another consequence of illiteracy is the pressure put upon the population dynamics because of family size. Literate women average 2 children per family while illiterate women give birth to 6-8 children. Literacy then, especially in a language a woman understands, ought to make a difference in her life and consequently in the life of her family. Note the following information supportive to this issue:
• educated women are more likely to use health clinics and return to the clinic if their children's health does not improve.
• educated women tend to begin their families at a later age and have fewer, healthier children.
• a 1% rise in women's literacy is 3 times more likely to reduce deaths in children than a 1% rise in the number of doctors. (Based upon a United Nations study of 46 countries.)
• for women, 4 to 6 years of education led to a 20% drop in infant deaths (Based on the same UN study mentioned above.)
• women with more education generally have better personal health and nutrition.
• the families of women with some education tend to have better housing, clothing, income, water, and sanitation.
The potential for individual and social transformation that takes place when an adult becomes literate may have a humble beginning but for the individual learner it can be dynamic. For example, the ability to sign our name may be a skill many of us take for granted. However, in much of the world, signing a person's name is an indication of being literate and opens the door for other knowledge beyond the reach of many of their peers. Literacy among adults allows parents an edge in communicating and passing on the value of literacy to their children. When parents cannot read, often their families are caught up in a generational cycle, not only of lack of education but also of illness and poverty.
On the other hand, getting a good start in literacy can begin to break that cycle so that they can move on to access other educational opportunities in their own life-long learning. This is especially true among the women and rural poor who carry the heaviest burden of illiteracy. With literacy skills, the cycle can be broken.