“Today, the staff at the municipality office looks at me with respect because I ‘sign’ the pay register – no more thumbprint!”
Mrs. Kouser, 36 yr old neo-literate pourakarmika of Yeshwanthpur, Bengaluru.
Most of India’s women, be they in urban or rural areas, are major contributors to the economy of the family and society, laboring predominantly in unorganised sectors. A sizeable percentage of them being illiterate, these women are treated with apathy, and often not given their fair share be it wages, services or entitlements.
ILP’s experiment with women adult literacy in small pockets to bring changes in small measures was significant success as it not only helped women in functional literacy but importantly provided a space for them to meet, share common concerns, collectively resolve local issues, and in the process move towards self empowerment. This has spurred the present support to Sahajeevan Samithi, NGO partner working with women in interior villages in Shahdol of Madhya Pradesh. Now these women have something to look forward to, after a day’s toil in the field and the routine of household chores!
ILP Bengaluru staff’s visit to Rupala village of Buraghar Block to meet the women attending the literacy classes was an event they welcomed with glee! Most women came to the class directly, fearing that if they go home they would be dragged into the day-in-day-out house work! The heavy rains did not deter their spirit and dripping wet they sat in the group ready to share the experience of the last one and half month. It made them feel important that they were being supported to become literates and above all there was this person coming all the way from Bengalurur to talk to them, see how their work is progressing, and how much they have learnt!
Sahajeevan Samithi has started the adult literacy classes to women who are part of SHGs (Self Help Groups). While promoting thrift and savings among a group of 10-13 women in a group SS also saw this as an opportunity to help women with functional literacy – a need that came from within them!
Despite limitations such as bad lighting, responsibilities at home many of the women were determined to become literate. With the exception of one lady whose child was all other 10 members were present and class was in progress during the visit. Many of them were able to write the alphabets and numbers on their slates, some were able to mentally calculate small problems such as what would be their saving for six months if their monthly saving was Rs.40/. It was heartening to see the child like enthusiasm to learn!
Meena is facilitating the class here. Sharvanthi, a mother of three children, one of who (daughter) is already married is a keen learner. One of her other kids, both boys, studying in class 8th class has dropped out of school for no reason and holds her to emotional ransom if she goads him to go to school. Shravanti is determined to become a literate so that she will have be respected, also know what is good for her son owing to the group support and ultimately help her younger son in studies so that he will not dropout from school.
It is women like Shravanthi who keeps the spirit burning in us to support the cause of literacy and education in India!