Literacy is a doorway to the world. It is a foundational skill that many of us take for granted. But, did you know that nearly 800 million people in the world do not know how to read and write, and approximately two-thirds (almost 500 million) of these people are women, according to the 2013 UNESCO literacy statistics? Some of the lowest recorded literacy rates are in African countries that border north Africa including: Senegal, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Ethiopia.
Not having access to written language means:
- Not having access to instructions on medications
- Not being able to text on your cell phone which is one of the major forms of communication in many countries in Africa
- Not being able to produce receipts for your business or read the prices of merchandise
- Not being able to read a letter or email from a loved one
In March of 2012, I visited an Ngbakan literacy class in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was mostly women.
The women sang a song of welcome to my colleague, Maralee, and I when we arrived.
The instructors shared with us that because government education is not free, families are often left having to make difficult decisions about which of their children to educate. When faced with that impossible choice, families often choose to educate their sons.
This has left many adult women without basic reading and writing skills. Literacy courses like this one offered in the Ngbakan language can help fill the gap and provide women with an opportunity to become literate. Learning to read changes lives. Here are some facts about women and literacy:
- Women who learn to read and have access to clean water live longer
- Women who know how to read are more likely to have literate children
- Women with some education tend to have lower infant mortality
People who can read have access to information that can help with any of these challenges.
Learning to read numbers and do basic math was also a critical component of these Ngbakan literacy classes. Seeing these ladies reading, writing, and doing math was exciting for me. I felt so proud of them!
Literacy is a critical component to scripture translation programs. If you’re in the US, you can give to support literacy programs. Click here to learn more.