Seeing is Believing
By Alta Rauch
“Development agencies have found two predictable indicators for longevity among women in developing countries: accessible clean water and literacy skills. Another well-known fact is that in some societies, discrimination exists in educational opportunities based on a gender bias.
The consequences become evident in the numbers. For example, in one African country alone the literacy rate among men is 26% while among women it is 11%. Other statistics further highlight that evidence: of the 1 billion illiterates in the world, two thirds of them are women!
Another consequence of illiteracy is the pressure put upon the population dynamics because of family size. Literate women average 2 children per family while illiterate women give birth to 6–8 children.
Literacy then, especially in a language a woman understands, makes a difference in her life and consequently in the life of her family.
Note the following information supportive to this issue:
- educated women are more likely to use health clinics and return to the clinic if their children’s health does not improve.
- educated women tend to begin their families at a later age and have fewer, healthier children.
- a 1% rise in women’s literacy is 3 times more likely to reduce deaths in children than a 1% rise in the number of doctors. (Based upon a United Nations study of 46 countries.)
- for women, 4 to 6 years of education led to a 20% drop in infant deaths (Based on the same UN study mentioned above.)
- women with more education generally have better personal health and nutrition.
- the families of women with some education tend to have better housing, clothing, income, water, and sanitation.”
(Source document, SIL International)
Alta spends an enormous amount of time in rural villages to make sure women have the opportunity to become literate. With nearly 4000 women in the program to date, the logistic challenges are many. But this is not the only problem for Mozambican women. Many women struggle with their eyesight which often causes headaches when they study. Thankfully an optometrist from Stellenbosch, South Africa Dr. Anina Potgieter came to our rescue by providing reading glasses for women. This resulted in many older ladies becoming eager to study.
We use the Bible to help women to read and write. In many cases the men will only allow their women to attend schools if the Bible is used. This helps us tremendously too. Take Mrs Orteria for example. She is in her 50’s and has never had the opportunity to learn to read and write. Due to her bad eye sight she gave up on ever mastering any reading or writing skills. New reading glasses changed all of this. It was a happy day when after receiving her glasses she was able to successfully finish her literacy classes. When I (Alta) visited, she proudly got out her Bible and started to read. The class errupted in praise and dance for Mrs Orteria. Needless to say, the proud look of achievement on her face made me cry.