19 June 2009

Imi ba ne'ebe! Rural women find new voices in writing

Timor Aid's Women's Literacy and Income Generation project gives illiterate women in rural areas the opportunity of basic education.

Literacy is universally known to provide the necessary opportunities that alleviate poverty and remove disadvantages. However, in a more humanistic but no less important sense, literacy opens up the world to those who could not participate before and in turn, the world can speak to and know them.

The women of Timor Leste living in remote communities and the districts outside Dili are well aware of their limitations to access information and have their voices heard. Currently, illiterate women in the districts of Bobonaro, Manatuo and Oecusse, are learning how to read and write for the first time in their own language, an ability many people would almost equate with being instinctual rather than a privilege.

One participant Sr. Aria wrote in a recent questionnaire that she wants to learn business skills in the agriculture and fishing markets so she can sell watermelon and fish. Previously this is not something she could have read or answered and importantly, communicated her business ideas. This articulation and liberation of her thoughts into the written word is a huge achievement and indicates the amazing repercussions from a literacy initiative, for a sense of self, to be able to participate in different levels and areas of society and to take ownership of one's own livelihood.

Sr. Aria Gorete also expressed in the recent written survey. "Before we attended the training we knew how to speak but now we can read and write for example "imi ba ne'ebe!"

The women know how important it is to be able to read and write and be able to express what they want and need.

Timor Aid Programs Manager, Rosalia Soares, said when asked why the literacy project was so important said that, "When you are illiterate your access is very small you cannot read even something small in your surroundings. It closes your potential to access other things but when you are literate this increases your access. You can read, and once you can read and count, you learn things indirectly and you are exposed to them just by reading. Everything can increase from there. "

Learning circles have been set up in each district totalling to 236 direct beneficiaries who are receiving literacy, numeracy and income generating skills training. Their meeting times are determined by the women and facilitated by Trainers from the community who have been identified, tested and trained by Timor Aid's Project Literacy trainer.

The WLIG Project has always accounted for the need to integrate practical skills as a literacy program on its own is not as effectively sustainable. The project addresses the issue of creating sustainable rural development by promoting Women's education and literacy in rural areas. Once the women have reached a certain level of literacy and numeracy they are asked what income generation activities they would like to learn to help them realise their ideas.

At the moment, groups that have finished all three books in the "Hakat ba Oin" Series , Adult Literacy Text books created by the Department of Non Formal Education, are identifying which income generation activities they would like to learn. Small business and Proposal Writing are the two most popular areas the women have chosen.

Timor Aid's Women's literacy and Income generation project (WLIG) has been in implementation since 2003 and is in partnership with International Spanish NGO, Fundeso since December 2007.

Anna McGeoch
External Relations Coordinator

Timor Aid
Avenida dos Direitos Humanos
Lecidere, Dili
PO BOX 145
Dili, Timor Leste

Mobile: +670 740 8641

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