education Uganda
Education is crucial in the fight to eventually end world poverty. Around the world, there is a correlation between areas of high poverty rates and the low education rates in those areas. In Uganda specifically, more than 80 percent of children attend primary school. However, these numbers plummet to less than 20 percent when it is time for secondary schooling. It has been proven that when children continue on to secondary school, their earning potential as adults dramatically increases, which holistically affects their community as well as lifts them from poverty. But, it is even simpler than that; 171 million people could escape the grasp of poverty by simply providing basic reading skills to children in low-income countries. Such is the power of education in ending world poverty.

One School at a Time

At an organization based in Colorado, Bay Roberts and Patty Gilbert have been working tirelessly to improve education in Uganda, a country where poverty strikes hardest and education rates appear high, but the quality is severely lacking. The organization is called “One School at a Time,” and its goal is to provide better educational opportunities for impoverished areas in Uganda. They currently partner with five different schools in Uganda, working with more than 2,250 students using their unique model to invite entire communities to come together.

The main areas of focus include: teaching the existing schools to identify their own needs and develop and implement a five-year plan; securing water, sanitation and menstrual pads for older girls; starting community gardens; providing school lunch programs; training teachers in nonviolent communication and helping first-generation girls avoid early marriage and pregnancy. They have been working to end education poverty in Uganda for 13 years.

Bay Roberts of One School at a Time

The Borgen Project interviewed Bay Roberts about the current situation of “One School.” When asked about the importance of education in the fight against world poverty, Roberts said, “Educated students learn to read and write and do basic math, they learn why it’s so important to wash your hands, they learn how to prevent disease and take care of their bodies, they learn how to plan for their futures and hopefully how to problem solve and how to think […] Current data indicates that in Sub-Saharan Africa, every extra year of schooling can equate to a 10 percent increase in wages throughout life.” Education is not just about reading, writing and math. For these children, it is about teaching them the basics of taking care of themselves as human beings. These skills stay with them throughout their whole lives.

Roberts then spoke specifically about the education of young girls, “Girls who do not have the chance to go to school are the ones that are hurt the most. They are sold early into marriage as parents often do not see the value in educating their daughters. These young women never have the chance to meet their potential, work a paying job, have access to their own money, etc.” Not only are young girls less likely to receive an education, but the impact that they have when they do is larger.

Roberts continued, “Girls who go to school are more likely to enter the workforce, earn higher incomes, delay marriage, plan their families and seek an education for their own children […] Women put 90 percent of their earnings into their families, compared to men’s 40 percent […] The World Bank has found that when a country improves education for girls, its overall per-capita income increases. Improvements in girls’ education lead to higher crop yields, lower HIV infection rates and reduced infant mortality.” In fact, a woman’s income has the potential to increase by 20 percent for every year of school she completes.

Building on Uganda’s Existing Education System

With that being said, the main goal of “One School” is not to provide access to education for children in Uganda. In 1997, Uganda implemented Universal Primary Education, presumably providing access for all children to receive primary education. However, due to woeful underfunding, the schools had almost no resources, direction or ability to educate properly. Therefore, the goal of “One School” is to partner with these underfunded schools and help provide them with tools, resources, and techniques to properly educate their students.  

When speaking about this process, Roberts said, “One School at a Time addresses this situation by working with stakeholders of a selected Ugandan government school to create a 5-year strategic plan to improve their school and then providing support to that school to implement their plan. Typically, in the early stages of the partnership, schools focus on infrastructure improvements: clean on-site water at school, latrines, health and sanitation, new classrooms and teachers quarters. Towards the end of the partnership, schools focus on programs to support older girls to stay in school, teacher training, small income-generating projects and farm and school lunch projects. The overall results are that these schools are markedly improved, stakeholders are energized and happy and students are having a vastly improved educational experience.”

As for the future, “One School at a Time” has plans to expand their programs further throughout Uganda, providing even more students with education and the opportunity for a better life. “Our plan is to expand this network to 10 schools and then replicate this process in another Ugandan district.” It is the hope of the organization that this program, with its capacity for growth, can be used throughout the world, giving every child a chance for success and ending world poverty through education.

– Zachary Farrin
Photo: Flickr

Education in Guyana
Howard Steven Friedman, a writer for the Huffington Post, stated in “America’s Poverty-Education Link” that poverty and education are linked as one and can be the determinant of the other. This means that without education, one is less likely to rise in social ranking in society. In fact, in the United States, 46 percent of Americans who failed to obtain college degrees remained in the lower income rankings.

Personal Testimonies of Education in Guyana

In The Borgen Project’s interview with Nadira Barclay, a student of Guyana, she stated her belief that “there are factors such as not having enough money to travel to school that affect your quality and quantity of education.” That being said, living in poverty takes away the means one may need to succeed educationally.

For Barclay, her education in Guyana brought her through only primary school — grades 1-6; since she lived in the countryside, the only way she would have been able to attend secondary school with minimal costs was to live with someone closer to the school. Due to the fact that she was a young girl, however, her father did not allow her to make the transition.

This is a prime example of the inconveniences students face while trying to pursue education in Guyana. Since Barclay only had a Primary school education, her ability and qualifications to work were limited, which is why today she works as a home health aide for the elderly.

On the other hand, Famida Sukhdeo, an individual Barclay cares for who is also from Guyana, explained, “I had to leave school to take care of my grandmother who was sick. I had to basically babysit her. I had to feed her, bathe her, and clean for her.” Sukhdeo’s case is one of many Guyanese women. For Sukhdeo, she spent her time in the workforce as a nanny, a job not far from what she had to do when she dropped out of school, due to her limited ability to read and write.

Redefining Educational Opportunities

So far, readers have seen the issue of travel costs, sex and domestic responsibilities in relations to education. Both Barclay and Sukhdeo were women raised in poverty who did not have a choice but to comply to gender-based restrictions despite their want to pursue higher education, as their options were limited by their social standings.

Unlike the United States that requires all children to attend school of all levels — from elementary to high school — Guyana makes no such stipulations. In fact, only primary school, which serves children ages 6 to 11, is compulsory. After completion, adolescents are no longer required to attend school and mostly resort to performing domestic tasks such as housekeeping and raising cattle.

As of 2012, Guyana’s expenditure on education from the total GDP was 3.18 percent, 5.22 percent lower than in 2000. According to both Barclay and Sukdheo, back when they were living in Guyana, the government played a bigger role in promoting and supporting education. For instance: “They used to give out clothes, supplies and money to children for school, but all that has stopped.”

Since there is less effort being given towards education in Guyana, research demonstrates that as the age of the population increases, so does the illiteracy rate. As both Barclay and Sukhdeo were able to explain, their lack of education affected them in the long run, especially for employment.

Support and Advocacy Efforts

As of 2002 and continuing to the present day, Global Partnership for Education, coordinated through the World Bank has begun working to improve the quality and quantity of education. This is being done by targeting areas: increasing the number of trained faculty, providing increased access to technology improving the conditions of physical facilities and so on.

So far, the Global Partnership for Education and the government of Guyana have agreed on two goals: increasing the learning outcomes for all regardless of background, and decreasing the differences of education received depending on factors, such as location.

There have also been goals set in place to measure Guyana’s progress: increasing literacy among fourth grade students to 50 percent, increasing the quantity of sixth grade students who reach 50 percent or more in core subjects to 40 percent, and increasing the number of students who pass core subject tests in secondary schools to 60 percent.

A Brighter Future

By continually working with the Global Partnership for Education, education in Guyana will continue to improve as the awareness and importance of education spreads. Thanks to continued organizational efforts and a U.S. education-geared grant of $1.7 million, the quality of education and quality of life of its recipients should both hopefully improve.

– Jessica Ramtahal
Photo: Flickr

Education and Literacy in Angola
For 27 years—from the end of Portuguese colonial rule in 1975 until 2002—civil war plagued Angola. Over a quarter century of war left the nation’s infrastructure in ruins, and the education system was no exception. Innumerable school buildings had been destroyed, and the population was largely destitute of the professionals and educators necessary to reboot an education system.

As such, it has been a struggle to rebuild the education system in Angola, but great strides are being made. At the end of the civil war, 72 percent of youths ages 15 to 24 were literate (83 percent of males and 63 percent of females). By 2014, that number had risen to 77 percent (with 85 percent of males and 71 percent of females being literate). The number of children attending school in 2002 was roughly two million. By 2013, attendance had tripled, with around six million students enrolled.

What accounts for this progress? And what challenges still lie ahead for Angola?

Improvements and Successes: What’s Working

Achieving universal basic education is one of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. After the end of the civil war, Angola’s Ministry of Education, in conjunction with UNESCO, developed a National Strategy on Literacy and School Recovery aimed at rebuilding the nation’s destroyed education system and spreading literacy throughout Angola. The national strategy is focused on mobilizing the efforts of various local, national and international NGOs, nonprofits and volunteer organizations to act as a single united front aimed at improving education and literacy in Angola.

In recent years, UNICEF has begun an initiative in Angola to digitally collect data on education, the state of schools and regions where schools are lacking. UNICEF plans to use this data to address issues with education and literacy in Angola scientifically. By mapping where schools are performing well and where schools are not (or are not in existence), UNICEF hopes it can direct resources to the right places.

Continued Challenges to Education and Literacy in Angola

Despite the civil war having ended more than 15 years ago, Angola is still facing—and will continue to face—challenges in its education system that date back to these years of violence. Primary education in Angola is compulsory and free for four years for children between the ages of 7 and 11, but the government estimates that approximately two million children are not attending school.

In areas where classrooms were completely demolished during the war and have not yet been rebuilt, classes typically are held outside and often must be canceled due to bad weather. Where classrooms do exist, they tend to be overcrowded and undersupplied, with outdated or insufficient books and pencils as well as not enough desks and chairs.

The government continues to work to alleviate these problems. Between 2016 and 2017, Angola opened 200 new schools, and numerous humanitarian organizations, including UNICEF, Inda Cares and Develop Africa, work to collect and send donated school supplies to Angola. UNICEF’s digital data collection is also of use here, as the organization hopes this data will help track both where help is most needed and the long-term impact of sending school supplies.

Furthermore, 27 years of fighting took a toll on the state of professionals in Angola.  The Angolan government employs roughly 17,000 teachers. Of these, it is estimated that 40 percent are underqualified for their positions. Today, less than 0.7 percent of Angola’s population attends universities; a lack of higher education perpetuates the teacher shortage problem. Additionally, the Angolan government estimates that an additional 200,000 teachers are needed in order to enroll all children in schools with appropriately sized classrooms. Finances as well as a lack of educated professionals prevent the government from hiring these needed teachers.

Looking Forward

Since the end of its civil war, Angola has made tremendous strides in bettering its education system and moving towards achieving universal primary education for all. But challenges still exist for the sub-Saharan African nation, where a lack of infrastructure, school supplies and educated professionals continue to impact the education of Angolan students. However, the commitment to improving education and literacy in Angola—seen in both the Angolan government and international organizations like UNICEF—offers hope that progress will continue to be made and that literacy and school attendance rates will continue to improve.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr

International Book Donation Programs
A new book can mean everything. It can transport you to a new world, untouched by your reality; it can comfort you; it can teach you. From novels to textbooks, international book donation programs help to shape our world and educate those who its words touch.

International Book Donation Programs

International book donation programs are a beautiful thing. They are run by some of the most powerful organizations in the world, for example the World Bank, or by grassroots movements. According to the World Bank, the world literacy rate is at 86 percent, the highest it has ever been. This means it is the best time to donate books and that every book donated can make a significant impact.

Over 30 years ago, the World Bank started the International Book Bank (IBB). Its slogan, “Books save lives,” was once one of the world’s largest international book donation programs and supported smaller international book donation programs. Since its inception in 1987, the IBB has shipped over 30 million new books around the world.

Many of these books were donated by the publishers themselves and sent on to individual schools and charities to be utilized by local institutions. However, in 2016 the IBB had to change with the world. According to their website, the spread of terrorism in many of their areas of operation, coupled with rising shipping cost and publishers moving to electronic texts, meant a strategy restructure.

International Book Bank and The International Book Project

Instead of en-mass shipping, the IBB shifted its focus to smaller and more precise projects, such as Liberia 20/20. Liberia 20/20 was started in mid-2016 and is intended to strengthen the Liberian education and library system through modern times. The IBB helps to develop electronic indigenous material for children and young adults and encourage indigenous authors to share their work by teaching them about property rights and translation. 

In Kentucky, there exists a grassroots, NGO international book donation program called The International Book Project (IBP). The IBP was founded in 1966 by Harriet Van Meter and since its inception, the IBP has sent over 6 million books worldwide. By sending books around the world, the IBP sees its efforts as a way to teach Americans about their world neighbors.

With a valid mailing address, a single person or organization can have anywhere from a 100 books in separate boxes or an entire shipping container with 10,000 to 40,000 books. The IBP provides books from all different genres and types, and works closely with Habitat for Humanity and Kentucky Refugee Ministries. The Kentucky Refugee Ministries is an organization which provides assistance to refugees resettling in the United States.

Books for Africa and E-Readers

One of the largest international book donation programs in the world, and the largest one dedicated to the African continent, is Books For Africa. Over 41 million books have been shipped by Books for Africa. According to their website, they have donated three million books and 93 computers and e-readers in the last year.

Utilizing computers for reading is a practice quickly growing and vastly important. Not only are publishers focusing more and more on electronic text, but computer programs and games are also being used to learn to read. Although the feeling of a book in your hand cannot be replicated, research becomes much easier when one deals with large texts on a computer rather than in sixteen pounds of books. This reality is why many of these computers and e-readers came with books already installed.

A Book or Two

The World Bank completed many studies since the mid-1980s in African countries, and findings showed that each time students received donated books, they had a higher chance to retain what they learn and retain fluency in the language. The good news is that these are not the only programs donating and shipping books.

It is easy to donate a book or two yourself to one of these charities. The University of Buffalo has an easily navigable list of international book donation programs for you to choose from. So as you read this and think about all those extra books stuffed in your basement, remember they have the potential to do better elsewhere.

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Better World Books Promotes LiteracyThe ability to read and write is one that is vital to a person’s capacity to function and excel in today’s world. Better World Books, an online new and used book retailer, has set out to provide for this need. Through programs that supply books to those in need and the funding of educational efforts, Better World Books promotes literacy across the globe.

The Mission Of Better World Books

Better World Books was founded in 2002 by three University of Notre Dame students who began selling textbooks online to earn extra cash. However, the business quickly became a social enterprise focused on literacy.

Better World Books does not approach philanthropy like typical companies. A focus on social and environmental good is at the heart of the organization’s business model, not an extra cause tacked on. The company’s mission integrates a focus on literacy and education, so much so that they offer paid time off to employees who are volunteering.

Better World Books collects books from book drives, college campuses and libraries, helping divert used books out of landfills and back into the hands of readers. Additionally, any books not sold are recycled in an attempt to be earth-conscious.

How Better World Books Promotes Literacy

For every book sold, Better World Books promotes literacy by donating a book to those in need. To date, the organization has donated 26,059,744 books to people around the world who do not typically have access to them. The company also gives grants and donations to projects that promote literacy, with a whopping $27,559,358 currently donated.

Better World Books promotes literacy with the help of three main partners: Books for Africa, Room to Read and The National Center for Families Learning. Each of these organizations has unique ways of promoting literacy and education worldwide which they are able to accomplish with the support of Better World Books.

Partnering for Literacy

Books for Africa’s mission is a simple one: bring an end to the “book famine” in Africa. Currently, the organization is the largest transporter of donated books to the African continent having shipped over 41 million books since the company began in 1988. Last year alone $2.5 million was used to send books to students all over Africa. The partnership that Better World Books has established with the organization has been impactful, allowing for more books to be provided to those in need.

Another partner of Better World Books, Room to Read, focuses on providing an education to children everywhere, specifically by increasing literacy and concentrating on gender equality. To date, 10.7 million children have benefitted from Room to Read’s programs, 8,703 teachers and librarians have been trained by the organization and 20.6 million books have been distributed.

Furthermore, Better World Books also partners with The Robinson Community Learning Center in South Bend, Indiana, The Prison Book Program and Ride for Reading. These smaller, domestic organizations were some of the first to benefit from Better World Books’ partnership and began the company’s interest in literacy.

With 750 million illiterate adults worldwide, the work Better World Books is doing is sorely needed. One of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure that all youth and most adults are literate and numerate by 2030. With the help of Better World Books, that goal seems more than attainable.

– Sarah Dean
Photo: Flickr

literacy in yemenReading and writing are creative processes in building new pathways to leadership, future college and career plans and community programming. While some nations might make this a priority, Yemen’s focus is not currently to encourage literacy among the educational system.

Issues with Education in Yemen

As of 2017, 4.5 million students did not receive schooling due to absent teachers. Teachers in Yemen are on strike for not receiving payment for their services to the community. No school in session means unproductive minds and no practice with literacy.

Due to progressing conflict in Yemen, educational access and literacy efforts are not a top priority for many. There are approximately 18.8 million people in need of humanitarian aid, which is roughly 69 percent of the population.

The priority aid in Yemen consists of protection, as three million people have been displaced from their homes and approximately 44,000 people have been severely injured or killed. Other priorities focus on basic survival such as food, shelter and healthcare. Restriction on imports, economic decline and inflation among markets is making it extremely difficult for civilians to afford anything, much less education.

Encouraging Literacy in Yemen

As of 2017, UNICEF is a major partner in developing and implementing strategic plans for the ministry of education in Yemen. UNICEF is using a systemic approach to achieve educational goals. The framework consists of support from policy and legislation, ministry leadership, funding and public demand followed by implementation within the pre-primary sector and focusing on curriculum for early learning.

It is important to develop plans for early learning that empower literacy among Yemeni children and youth, as they are the future of the nation. The top three reasons to encourage literacy in Yemen are:

  1. Personal Empowerment
  2. Employability
  3. Active Citizenship

Why Literacy is Important

Reading, writing and learning involve creative and critical thinking as well as problem solving. Literacy encourages better communication, self-management, resiliency, participation, empathy, respect for others, cooperation, decision making and negotiation—all of which are necessary life skills.

There has been a 10 percent increase in literacy over the past 20 years, jumping from 60.22 percent to 70.1 percent. However, areas with high conflict, such as Yemen, have greater potential to fall behind.

With an increasing drop out rate in the education system and high conflict causing other basic needs to take priority, it is easy for literacy to get lost in Yemen. Continued work can ensure a bright future ahead for families in Yemen, but a political focus on education and literacy in Yemen must be made a top priority.

– Ashley Cooper
Photo: Flickr

Illiteracy in Developing Nations
In poorer developing nations, 75 percent of children cannot read a single word of their native language. Illiteracy in developing nations stems from a lack of quality education, which can lead to familial economic instability, gender inequality and child mortality.

The Benefits of Addressing Illiteracy in Developing Nations

Addressing illiteracy in developing nations and increasing access to education can positively influence countries in many ways:

  • Economic Growth: Each year that a child remains in school increases their earning potential by 10 percent and raises their country’s GDP by 0.37 percent.
  • Gender Equality: Girls who attend school are less likely to be married before adulthood or be forced into marriage, fostering broader life choice and increased independence.
  • Child Mortality: It is projected that if all women were able to complete primary school, the under-five mortality rate could fall by 15 percent, preventing the deaths of almost one million children.

Equal Access to Education Can Equalize Opportunity

Pencils of Promise is a nonprofit organization whose focus is addressing illiteracy in the developing nations of Laos, Guatemala and Ghana. It achieves this goal by building schools, supporting local teachers and implementing health and hygiene programs to increase educational outcomes.

The organization started in 2008 with an initial deposit of $25, has since built 471 schools, supported 921 teachers and impacted 90,164 students as of June 2018. Varying educational indicators reveal rapid improvement as children ascend through grade school within the Pencils of Promise facilities.

By fifth and sixth grade, 54 percent of students are proficient in reading comprehension, which is used to assess independent readers. The data also shows amazing teacher commitment, at a rate of 87 percent compared with a global average of 70 percent.

Health is a huge factor in a child’s survival. Annually, clean drinking water could prevent the deaths of 860,000 children. Through Pencils of Promise’s WASH program, 97 percent of students in schools where the program has been implemented report clean drinking water.

The organization maintains close ties with the communities in which it works. Local community members contribute 20 percent of the resources and labor to every school built, and all of its country directors are from the country they are working in.

Pencils of Promise Partners with Companies to Broaden Its Impact

Pencils of Promise uses a for-profit business mentality to form lucrative partnerships with corporations such as Google, Dolce & Gabbana and Vogue. All administrative expenses are covered by corporate donations. All individual donations made online go solely to funding program services.

In the fall of 2017, Pencils of Promise partnered with the sweatshop-free clothing manufacturer American Apparel to create a capsule collection of t-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with the eye-catching phrase “Two hundred fifty million kids can’t read this”. The collection represents American Apparel’s commitment of $200,000 to fund the building of three schools in Guatemala, Laos and Ghana.

The mantra of Pencils of Promise is that everyone has promise. Addressing illiteracy in developing nations can provide millions of children with pathways out of poverty. Everyone gains from the progress that knowledge fosters.

Two hundred and fifty million kids can’t read this; where could we be if they could?

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

mobile library in Kabul
Using only a large bus, a young Oxford graduate has launched a mobile library in Kabul, Afghanistan, to bring the joys of reading and learning to children and adults alike. In a country where not everyone has the opportunity to go to school, this library is making a world of difference.

History of Instability Has Affected Children’s Education in Afghanistan

Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, has a history of violence. The nation has been marked by unstable governments and other violent groups, many of which plan attacks in the city of Kabul. Parents tend to keep their children behind closed doors to keep them safe.

Afghanistan also has a very low literacy rate, with only 36 percent of the population being able to read, and among women, this figure drops to 17 percent. Between three and five million children in Afghanistan are estimated to miss school this year, 85 percent of whom are young girls.

Freshta Karim, a public policy master’s graduate from Oxford University, saw this as an opportunity to help children in Kabul begin to learn and have fun. Karim grew up as a refugee in Pakistan, then returned to Afghanistan in 2002 after the fall of the Taliban. She says that she missed out on some childhood experiences due to the violence in the region and the inability of many to attend school. She recognized the importance of providing a space where children could be children and learn and grow as individuals.

With the help of a group of young educated volunteers, Karim launched the mobile library in Kabul in February 2018. The library is named Charmaghz, the Dari word for walnut, which in Afghan culture is associated with logic.

Mobile Library in Kabul Receives an Overwhelming Response

The library offers free access to more than 600 books in Dari, Pashto and English. In addition to books on many topics, there is access to board games, poetry, and music that allows children to learn about Afghan culture. Charmaghz stops at parks, schools and orphanages around Kabul for a few hours at a time, making two to three stops per day to provide access to as many children as possible.

In the first three weeks of operation, the library had more than 1,000 visitors. The library now draws approximately 300 people per day and has many regulars. Children come to learn, read and play with their friends, adults bring snacks and tea and volunteers come to lead sessions with children to discuss stories.

“It is beyond our beliefs and expectations how people love our program. We are humbled by their response. They appreciate and support it,” Karim said of the individuals who visit the library. Charmaghz was started to help a younger generation learn to read and broaden their horizons, and it seems the public is responding well to the new addition.

The team operating Charmaghz would like to ultimately expand. Currently, the mobile library in Kabul is financed by donations from Afghan professionals, and small donations from anyone who can afford to give anything. With this support, Karim believes expansion to other areas of Afghanistan, and providing more services, such as documentary screening, would be possible.

What started as a small effort to bring reading and learning opportunities to children in Kabul has become a staple of the community, encouraging children to grow and continue learning despite difficult circumstances.

– Katherine Kirker
Photo: Flickr

Women empowerment and employment in India
India has certainly made substantial progress in recent decades, but the country has a long way to go when it comes to women empowerment. According to a World Bank report, India ranks 120th among 131 nations in women workforce. Improving women empowerment and employment in India are very important steps in achieving a poverty-free country.


India ranks 38th among the 51 developing countries in female literacy rates. Forty eight percent of females in India have attended till 5th standard, out of which only 15 percent of females who attended second standard are literate.

India falls short in female literacy rates in comparison to neighboring states like Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh; fortunately, though, the government is taking significant actions. To provide better education for the women, especially for the tagged “below poverty-level” families, the government has made concession packages on free books, uniforms, clothing and midday meals.

An article from the a 2016 Economic Times article states that “32 educational institutes have been built in villages of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.” Things cannot change in one go, but efforts are being made to increase women literacy rates, which are crucial to women empowerment and employment in India.

Domestic Violence

India is not the only nation with frequent stories of domestic violence — it happens all around the world. The only feature that sets India apart from other countries is that most women in India suffer in silence. According to a study done by ICRW, 52 percent of women have experienced violence in their entire lifetime, and 60 percent of men admitted acting violently against their partners.

The rate of reported incidents have increased in 2013 than 2003 and reporting is higher in areas where women are more educated and vocal. Varsha Sharma, senior police officer in Crime Against Women cell in Delhi said, “it’s a good thing that the number of cases is consistently rising because it means that women are refusing to suffer in silence.”


The Labor Force participation rate has declined from 42 percent (1993-94) to 31 percent (2011-12). Nearly 20 million Indian women quit work between 2011/12 and May 2014. The predictable reasons for this occurrence have always been patriarchy, marriage, motherhood, late nighttime schedules and security.

The female participation rates have been dropping since 2005, despite having 42 percent of women graduates per graduating cycle. As article from Hindustan Times says, “Women want to work but there are not enough jobs being created.”

According to BBC news, another possible reason for this drop in employment could be the recent expansion of secondary education; that is, women opting to continue studies rather than join work. At the same time, getting a higher education also does not ensure that women will eventually go to work.

Ela Bhatt, Indian Co-operative organizer and activist, states a very important fact: “Employment is empowering. It helps women to develop their identity and when they become organized they build up courage and confidence to talk to the police, the courts, banks or their husbands as equals.”

Gender Equality

India ranks fifth among all the nations in regard to skewed ratio of girls to boys. Gender discrimination begins at a very young age and starts, in fact, right from the beginning because of cultural preference for having a son rather than a daughter.

USAID, India and its partners are promoting programs of gender equality in the fields of food security, clean energy and environment, education, sanitation and health care. The outcome of these efforts was that 2.5 million girls and boys received equal attention and opportunity in classrooms.

India may be significantly behind in growth prospects with two thirds of women not working, so improving women empowerment and employment in India is very important to acquiring a more prosperous nation.

– Shweta Roy
Photo: Flickr

Literacy Fights PovertyIt seems an obvious statement to suggest that reading and writing can improve one’s life. Is it as obvious, however, that if everyone could read and write, 171 million people would be lifted out of poverty? These taken-for-granted, simple skills have the power to change our world. Literacy fights poverty in often unheralded ways and the effects of literacy reach beyond the walls of any classroom.

The Economy of Literacy

An economy’s success lies in the spending power of its people. This comes only through more opportunities, more developed skills, better employment and higher salaries.

Employment creation has proven to be the most effective tool in poverty reduction and better employment only comes through better education. In fact, on average, one year of education is estimated to increase wage earnings by 10 percent, and in places like sub-Saharan Africa, by as much as 13 percent.

The numbers are clear. While literacy fights poverty and helps to stabilize the economies of developing nations, illiteracy costs the world about $1.19 trillion every year.

Literacy and Health

Literacy fights poverty in the healthcare arena as well. Being literate helps people better understand health concerns and better educate themselves when it comes to healthcare. This is especially important in developing countries, where disease can dictate a cycle of poverty. The statistics linking literacy and generational health provide clarity:

  • It is estimated that infant mortality rates decrease 9 percent for every year of education attained.
  • Understanding reading and writing makes it 24 percent less likely that children will be underweight or malnourished.
  • People being able to read and write slows the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Maternal education can help mitigate the effects of diseases like pneumonia.

Literacy Empowers

Inequality, specifically gender inequality, stifles economies and prevents generational growth. Two-thirds of the illiterate population of the world are women. It is no surprise, given the destructive social dynamics of so many underdeveloped nations, that every year 15 million girls under the age of 18 are married. Often, these girls see this as their only option when they cannot afford a good education.

Educated women become empowered and take control of their own lives. Education fosters personal autonomy and creative and critical thinking skills, which provide a wider economy and community. According to the World Bank, better-educated women tend to be healthier, have fewer children and marry later in life.

Resilience and Community

Literacy fights poverty through the power of the possible. Without literacy, a lack of choices commits millions to a prison of doubt. Reading and writing have been proven to increase self-confidence, help make informed decisions and provide new job prospects.

Additionally, literacy provides distractions and new pathways away from the prospects of crime or child soldiery. In fact, literacy makes it 50 percent less likely that people will commit robbery or murder.

Overcoming obstacles of this magnitude takes an enormous amount of resiliency. Education provides the will-power to build it up. In a world where 123 million 15- to 24-year-olds cannot read, the need for literacy has never been more apparent.

The End of a Cycle: Literacy Fights Poverty

According to the United Nation’s Global Education Monitoring Report, new evidence suggests that increasing the years of schooling among adults by two years would help lift nearly 60 million people out of poverty. If ending poverty is the ultimate goal, it may well be that literacy is a starting point. Literacy allows other development goals to happen.

Literacy creates opportunities for people to develop skills to provide for themselves and their family, while at the same time positively impacting each generation through raised expectations and increased self-esteem. Literacy fights poverty much like the feet of a duck fight against the water beneath it. Though it may not always be seen, much work lies below the surface.

– Daniel Staesser

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