Women, Literacy, and Development: Alternative Perspectives

Women, Literacy, and Development: Alternative Perspectives

Women, Literacy, and Development: Alternative Perspectives

Women, Literacy, and Development: Alternative Perspectives

Synopsis

Women's literacy is often assumed to be the key to promoting better health, family planning and nutrition in the developing world. This has dominated much development research and has led to women's literacy being promoted by governments and aid agencies as the key to improving the lives of poor families. High dropout rates from literacy programmes suggest that the assumed link between women's literacy and development can be disputed.This book explores why women themselves want to learn to read and write and why, all too often, they decide that literacy classes are not for them.Bringing together the experiences of researchers, policy makers and practitioners working in more than a dozen countries, this edited volume presents alternative viewpoints on gender, development and literacy through detailed first-hand accounts. Rather than seeing literacy as a set of technical skills to be handed over in classrooms, these writers give new meaning to key terms such as 'barriers', 'culture', 'empowerment' and 'motivation'.Divided into three sections, this text examines new research approaches, a gendered perspective on literacy policy and programming, and implementation of literacy projects in African, Asian and South American contexts. With new insights and groundbreaking research, this collection will interest academics and professionals working in the fields of development, education and gender studies.

Excerpt

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Are literate women healthier, wealthier and even wiser than illiterate women? This is a question that has dominated debates on school and adult education in countries of the South. Women's and girls' education has been taken up by many governments and development agencies as the key to improving the lives of poor families. In particular, women's literacy classes are often run as the entry point to other development interventions, such as family planning and child nutrition programmes. High drop-out rates from such programmes suggest however that the assumed link between women's literacy and development can be disputed. Do women themselves feel that they need to read and write in order to learn about contraceptives or to find out about immunisation for their children? What are the real reasons why some women want to come night after night to study in literacy classes? Do they want to learn to decipher the labels on medicine bottles or to read religious texts or to write about their lives? This book, collecting together experiences from countries as diverse as El Salvador, India and Uganda, tries to answer some of these questions.

The belief that literacy will contribute to women's greater participation in development has resulted in a proliferation of women's literacy programmes run by both governments and NGOs. Researchers and evaluators have attempted to measure the impact of literacy on women's lives, using indicators as varied as 'empowerment', child mortality or fertility. Policy makers have focused on the barriers to women's participation in education, the high drop-out rates in literacy programmes and poor long-term retention of skills. Only recently have questions been raised about the purpose of educating women, challenging the efficiency arguments of the past. Is it only so that women can become better mothers and wives?

This edited volume brings together writing by researchers, policy makers and practitioners working within a new paradigm of gender, development and literacy. Though working in contrasting contexts and countries, these writers share a concern to promote literacy as a human right,

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