Imagine what it would be like if you had never held a pencil, never written a letter, never read a word.
Nearly 300 million women fit that description.
Around the world, literacy rates for women lag behind those of men. Girls are less likely than their brothers to have the opportunity to attend school, and those that do attend are often forced to drop out before completing secondary school. But when women do receive literacy training, they are better able to affect change, combating destructive conditions like poverty, illiteracy, and discrimination.
Linguists have found that majority culture often places a low value on minority language. Many times the minority language speakers begin to accept the negative view of themselves and their way of life. But when individuals learn to read and write in their own language, it can help them realize the significance of their culture. Seen as the primary guardians of indigenous culture, it is especially important for women to gain the capacity and skills necessary to preserve it.
More than Reading and Writing
When women attend literacy classes, they learn much more than how to read and write. By the end of a typical program, participants are able to write notes, stories, and letters; read letters and books; tell time; add, count money, and read scales. Suddenly they can interact with the world in a new way, gathering information through reading and expressing themselves through writing. Using their basic knowledge of mathematics, women can shop at the marketplace without fear of being cheated. It is also easier for an individual to bridge into the national or trade languages once they learn to read and write in their mother tongue.
Reading gives women access to information on a variety of topics like health care, nutrition, hygiene, childbirth, and disease prevention. The lifestyle changes that result battle dangerous global diseases like malaria, hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS.
The “poorest of the poor” in almost all societies are women and children. Literacy gives women the skills they need to manage rural micro-economic businesses, or “cottage industries.” These endeavors give women their own source of income, promoting independence and equality and enabling them to improve their homes, buy food and clothing for their families, and pay school fees for all their children—not just boys. As a result, literacy is seen as the foundation for all sustainable community development.
Literacy Brings Lasting Change
The influence of literacy is seen not only in the lives of the women who achieve it but also in the lives of those around them. Women who have been transformed are strongly motivated to provide education for their community, guaranteeing that any investment in women’s education is sustained from generation to generation.
The single most valuable reason to improve literacy is the opportunity for every woman to read the translated Word of God in her own language and begin or strengthen a relationship with her Savior. Without the ability to read, the translated Scriptures have little impact.
Literary projects are often part of Wycliffe’s Bible translation process, teaching both men and women how to read and write in their language and preparing them to access God’s Word for themselves.
You can help support Wycliffe literacy projects by visiting http://www.wycliffe.org/Give/CurrentProjects/–MothersDay.aspx
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