Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Today is International Rural Women's Day!

ProLiteracy recognizes this day as an occasion to celebrate the advances rural women are making around the world. Rural women face many obstacles including access to education, human rights and domestic violence abuses, and minimal involvement in community decision or democratic participation. We celebrate this day and stand alongside rural women as they make changes in their communities and organize together to have a unified voice and bring awareness about the issues they face.

ProLiteracy supports several programs around the world committed to helping rural women gain literacy skills. Those partner programs include:

Asociación de Mujeres de Juntas Parroquiales Rurales del Ecuador (AMJUPRE)

AMJUPRE is a grassroots nonprofit organization that has been working to promote the rights of indigenous women in Ecuador since 2003. Indigenous women living in rural areas are often the most marginalized within their communities and have limited access to jobs, education, or leadership roles. AMJUPRE provides training and capacity building for local political councils, and focuses on empowering rural women by bringing them together to organize anti-violence campaigns and advocate for the changes they want to see in their lives and communities. AMJUPRE currently has 450 member programs within Ecuador and has helped create a Latin American network to allow indigenous rural women to seek solidarity with other women around the world in the fight against exploitation and social injustice.

Non-Timber Forest Products (NFTP) 

NTFP is a local nongovernmental organization based in the Ratanakiri Province of northeast Cambodia. 
Established in 1996, NTFP plays a critical role in helping rural women gain access to literacy skills and help their communities secure rights to their land and natural resources. Cambodia’s unofficial caste system means that being from an ethnic group with no written language is synonymous to being 'uncivilized.' The NFTP literacy program is enabling Kavet women and girls to gain literacy skills in their native languages and hold their heads high.

This year ProLiteracy is supporting a literacy program for 240 Kavet women in six villages. The majority of the women are between the ages of 10 to 25 and this is their first opportunity to have an education as most have no access to primary school. This project makes a significant difference for the future of rural women in the Kavet communities of Cambodia. Through this project woman participants will be part of a pool of literate people in each village. For many of the women, they are learning to read and write their own language and the national language (Khmer) for the first time in the history of their peoples.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Importance of Literacy in Health Crises!

A mother and baby wait to be seen at
the IHI clinic in Jahtondo, Liberia.
Imani House International (IHI), ProLiteracy’s long-time partner in Liberia, has served women and their families since 1986 by providing access to health and education services in the midst of civil war, extreme poverty, and now during the health crisis that country is facing today with the Ebola virus.

Liberian hospitals in several parts of the country lack the capacity to effectively deal with the spread of the deadly virus. Imani House International has a clinic situated about 12 miles from the capital city of Monrovia in the community of Jahtondo, and has provided medical care to people for many years in areas of maternal and child healthcare, educational talks on family planning, AIDS prevention, STDs, and sanitation. As trusted members of the Jahtondo community, the Imani House clinic staff has brought together locals and civic leaders to plan strong outreach approaches to educate the people in the area.

Clinic staff have demonstrated a tremendous level of commitment to saving lives over the years and remain resolute in treating patients who come in with less complicated needs—such as malaria, diarrhea, respiratory infections, pregnancy check-ups, and other regular health services. According to the head nurse, Annie Coleman, Imani House Clinic has not received any confirmed cases of Ebola thus far; however, patients with symptoms similar to the Ebola disease are being placed under surveillance until they are treated. Coleman noted that many other illnesses share symptoms similar to Ebola, which makes it difficult for health workers to differentiate Ebola from more common viral illnesses such as malaria.

 While IHI is doing its best to manage the situation, its staff lacks the medical supplies and protective gear to properly isolate potential Ebola infected patients. Imani House is in the process of renovating an old clinic building to be used as a triage center to treat those with suspicion of Ebola and also to serve as an isolation space until the patient(s) can be picked up by health workers from the Ministry of Health. Currently the Ebola virus has killed more than 1,500 people according to the latest figure from the World Health Organization. While there is no treatment for Ebola, patients who receive medical treatment in the early stages can increase their chances for survival.

The government of Liberia has begun re-opening hospitals and clinics but progress is slow and those who are falling sick are afraid to seek medical attention for fear of being stigmatized as an Ebola patient and unable to return to their villages. The Imani House clinic is one of the few community-based clinics that is presently open to date and the staff are committed to working in surrounding areas to create awareness through education and work with local authorities, youth, women, and men to dispel myths and misinformation about Ebola that is causing apprehension and chaos. Imani House Executive Director Bisi Iderabdullah states “Without the community involvement, we cannot end this unfortunate and deadly situation. Imani House will not abandon our responsibilities; our clinic worked through the war, and we will work through ending this terrible Ebola scourge.”

Click here to make a donation to support the work of Imani House International in Liberia.                                        
                      Please  designate your donation for International Programs.

IHI is a nonprofit organization that seeks “to implement projects that will ultimately improve the quality of life of young people at risk in Liberia and the US and to effectively build a bridge of friendship between the two countries.” IHI was founded during Liberia’s bloody civil war and has emerged as strong force for development and social change.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Women's Education Helps Avert Child Marriage

Around 2.9 million girls are married by the age of 15 in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, equivalent to one in eight girls in each region, according to estimates in the 2013-14 EFA Global Monitoring Report. If present trends continue, 142 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday over the next decade. That’s an average of 14.2 million girls each year. These shocking statistics mean millions of girls are robbed of their childhood and denied an education.

Studies show that education empowers women to overcome discrimination. Girls and women who are educated have greater awareness about their rights and have confidence to make decisions about their lives.

Studies show that girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry as children. In Mozambique, some 60 percent of girls with no education are married by 18, compared to 10 percent of girls with secondary schooling and less than one percent of girls with higher education. Educating adolescent girls has been a critical factor in increasing the age of marriage in a number of developing countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand. If all girls completed primary school in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, the number of girls getting married by age 15 would fall by 14%; with secondary education, 64% fewer girls would get married.

 a Girl Summit was held in London, aimed at rallying efforts to end female genital mutilation and child marriage. Those engaged in combating early marriage and FGM should take note of the links between literacy and child marriage. The evidence is too strong to ignore: While just 8% of literate girls are married by age 15 in South and West Asia, for example, almost one in four who are not literate are married by this age.

ProLiteracy has been supporting programs educating women and girls through our Women in Literacy Initiative since 1992. Our partner in Afghanistan, The Roqia Center has been educating men and women through a unique program that requires husbands to bring their wives to the literacy classes and brothers to bring their sisters. Men are not allowed to attend alone; they must bring a family member who is a woman. In this way women and girls are gaining an education as well and placed on the same learning level as men.  Our long-standing partners in Egypt, Yuvaparivartan and Laubach Literacy Education Trust also work in remote villages offering literacy classes to women and girls. The literacy class becomes a safe place to talk about cultural issues like child marriage, domestic abuse due to dowry, and other sensitive topics that might never be discussed openly.

To learn more about the work ProLiteracy does to help women and girls, click here.

Click here to learn more about how you can help take a stand against child marriage!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Democracy is a Kind of Miracle

Lynn Curtis, ProLiteracy’s international programs advisor, recently traveled to Quito, Ecuador as one of 100 international representatives invited to observe the state/provincial elections held February 23, 2014. The National Electoral Council invited individuals representing various governmental and non-governmental institutions to participate in the electoral process to ensure a transparent and fair election. Observers traveled to all 24 provinces in the country and monitored the voting process, ballot counting, and election results. Throughout his time in Ecuador, Curtis took notes about his experiences while observing the electoral process in Ecuador:

“The training was a deep dive into all the mechanics of voting and democratic processes in Ecuador,” says Curtis. “With delegations from all over the world, it was quite an impressive gathering. The National Electoral Council worked really hard to make sure the electoral process was transparent, fair, and inclusive.”

Curtis was selected to observe voters in the Napo province of Ecuador, which is the Amazon region.  ProLiteracy has supported literacy projects in the past in this region; the majority of people who live in this province are indigenous and many of them have little access to education as they live in rural areas. The schools that do exist are often poorly funded and living conditions are challenging with intermittent access to electricity and running water.

“In Napo, our team went to 11 precincts including about 90 polling stations and saw thousands of voters,” says Curtis. “Lots of voters had to sign in with their fingerprints because they couldn’t read. At the end of the day, the local polling stations tallied up votes and had a counting ceremony with 10 guards in riot gear, and closed the ceremony by signing the national anthem. Democracy is kind of a miracle.”

In addition to being a participant on the delegation of International Observers, Curtis also presented a proposal to the National Electoral Council regarding the possibility of incorporating an adult literacy component in certain provinces where there is limited access to education programs.

The proposed pilot project would include the development of literacy training and materials focused on the democratic process, and would enable marginalized populations, including indigenous communities, women, and people with disabilities, to participate more actively in elections and community development. ProLiteracy recognizes the importance of literacy in any community. We believe education is the key to making informed decisions, such as voting for the right candidate. Through literacy, citizens can participate in democracy and civic engagement, and take part in shaping their future.

ProLiteracy was honored to be a part of the electoral process in Ecuador and we look forward to the possibility of future initiatives to help further democracy through adult education. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mithila Painting

Rani Jha, director of the Institute, says Mithila art represents not only the artists, but other women as well. "My paintings do not only concern the position of women in Bihar, but in all of India. I show that in one of my paintings, where I show a girl reaching up and wanting to touch the moon. In education, in the corporate sector, and in athletics the rainbow of hope has risen for these women and they see that with astonishment. Decade after decade women are changing and remodeling themselves. Women who have been educated have hope, but those two generations back are cursed and weep for their pathetic plight.”

Mithila painting is an ancient art form in the Likhiya, literally meaning “writing,” style. The Mithila Art Institute, located in Madhubani, India, gives uneducated and non-literate women across the entire caste spectrum in India an incredible opportunity to use their talent and create magnificent pieces. Using only ink as their tool, these women believe they are writing, not painting, to express themselves.

Dulari Devi, The Great Flood of 2006
Dulari Devi, The Great Flood of 2006: Photo Courtesy of Syracuse University Art Galleries
The paintings are not only an artistic tradition; they are empowering women in a historically conservative society. While some paintings depict deities and ancient rituals, others challenge gender relations. These women, who use their paintings as their voice in society, comment on social norms and issues about which they feel strongly.

Since 2000, the students at the institute have been painting local, national, and international events: floods, terrorism, global warming, and most recently, feminist issues such as patriarchy, dowry, bride burning, female infanticide, differential medical care and education for girls and boys, among others.

Rani Jha captures women’s experiences in her paintings. “I can read a woman's laughter and her smile and can tell whether it is real or fake. I worked in a Short Stay Home (a government home for abused women) for a time, and I still shudder with fear at what I saw and heard of the stories of these women. All this I interpret and depict in my paintings,” she says. 

Like Rani Jha, ProLiteracy also works to empower women in India. ProLiteracy partners with Yuvaparivartan in Tamil Nadu, to support the development of women living in squatter communities. Through the program, women have the opportunity take part in literacy education, income generation projects, and healthcare improvement campaigns. Yuvaparivartan trains local teachers and provides seed money for income-generating projects and advocacy resources.

Through another initiative, Laubach Literacy Education Trust (LLET) assists adult learners through village learning centers in the region of Kerala. Ninety percent of LLET learners are women whose families survive on seasonal, subsistence-level incomes from growing rice, fishing or unsophisticated construction. Most of the participants and their spouses are unemployed three-fourths of the year.  For these people, literacy is a matter of survival.  Many graduates of the village learning centers go on to enroll into the tuition-free LLET vocational school where they complete specialized course work and receive government certification in tailoring, typing, weaving, knitting, shorthand or accountancy.  This combination of literacy and vocational training has become key for women to gain employment within the formal economy.

Click here to learn more about programs ProLiteracy supports in India and other parts of the world.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The State of Literacy: 2013 and 2014

2013 is winding down. Countdowns and “top 10” lists of the year are popping up everywhere, including the Top 10 most watched YouTube videos, the Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs, and a Top 10 Everything, where you can look at 54 lists of the “bests” in 2013, developed by TIME Magazine. 

This also the time for lists for the coming year, such as Best Trips 2014 or Top 10 Food Trend Predictions for 2014.

We’ve joined the trend and here’s what we’ve developed as a Top List for Literacy in both 2013 and 2014:

Top Moments for Global Literacy in 2013
Top Moments for Global Literacy in 2014
  • The high school equivalency exam (formerly the GED) is changing and it has spurred other companies and states to be involved in the testing service. This brings further awareness to the fact that more than 39 million adults aged 16 and older in the U.S. lack a high school credential.[1] We hope in 2014 this will result in larger numbers of students earning their high school equivalency exams. (For more information on the different exams, please see more here.)
  • Innovative solutions to tackle low literacy levels have been developed around the globe, including using technology in innovative teaching methods and ProLiteracy’s Literacy for Social Change program. This program integrates learning and community improvement by teaching basic literacy skills. We hope that in 2014 these solutions will continue to improve the lives of adults all over the world.
We believe every adult has a right to literacy. Literacy remains a major challenge for so many people worldwide, but ProLiteracy is optimistic for 2014 and beyond.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

ProLiteracy and Innovative Education

Education and literacy statistics are staggering—or rather, the low levels of literacy and quality education around the world. One teacher in Mexico and an educational technology professor in India, among others, are experimenting with innovative ways to address these problems, since traditional fixes (money, more teachers, etc.) are not always available.

Many of ProLiteracy’s international programs use student-inspired programs, so the skills learned can be used immediately in the student’s daily life.  Not only is this useful for the adult learners who often have little time to play catch up in their education, but it is similar to how humans learn, according to recent research.

According to this article, Sugata Mitra was chief scientist at a company in New Delhi, India, that trains software developers. His office was on the edge of a poor neighborhood, and on a hunch one day, he decided to put a computer into a nook in a wall separating his building from the neighborhood. He was curious to see what the kids would do, particularly if he said nothing. He powered the computer on and watched from a distance. To his surprise, the children quickly figured out how to use the machine.

For Mitra, this was the beginning of his work on an alternative educational philosophy that harnesses the power that the digital age can bring to education.  “Access to a world of infinite information has changed how we communicate, process information, and think. Decentralized systems have proven to be more productive and agile than rigid, top-down ones. Innovation, creativity, and independent thinking are increasingly crucial to the global economy.”

Part of the natural way to learn is by experiment and by curiosity.  Some teachers that have tried this approach have had remarkable success with their young students and there is no reason that this cannot be applied to adult education programs as well. “The bottom line is, if you’re not the one who’s controlling your learning, you’re not going to learn as well,” says lead researcher Joel Voss, now a neuroscientist at Northwestern University.

Maybe this philosophy is why ProLiteracy programs are so successful in areas around the world. Students, even adult students, who control their own learning can do better and learn more.

For more information on ProLiteracy and its programs, please visit our website at