Literacy programme empowers thousands of rural women

March 26th, 2008 - 11:28 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 26 (IANS) Nirmala Devi of Sitapur district, Uttar Pradesh, smiled confidently as she signed her name in Hindi. Like Nirmala Devi , more than 42,000 rural women from various states have learnt to read and write after taking part in a month-long literacy programme. The programme, TARA Akshar Literacy, was initiated by voluntary organisation Development Alternatives (DA) under the Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) programme in an effort to empower women.

“We have 291 centres across northern India, where people who do not know how to read and write are learning that in 30 days. Currently, we are targeting women whose ages range from 8 to 50,” Kiran Sharma, project director of PACS, said at a press conference here Wednesday.

Sharma said the literacy programme was computer based and taught people to read and write in Hindi in four weeks.

A total of 43,202 women from six states - Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar - enrolled for the course between 2007-08. Of them, 42,353 passed the exam at a success rate of 98 percent.

“Most of the students have limited communication and zero literacy skills when they start the programme. However, by the time they complete the course, they are able to read and write. Sometimes they also write poetry,” Sharma said.

The programme has been of immense benefit, especially to those women who are physically challenged or disabled.

Komal, a 14-year-old girl, of Banka in Bihar was considered an economic handicap to her family because she couldn’t walk properly, affected by polio at the age of three.

“Her father, a labourer, couldn’t imagine how to get her married because of her handicap. But good sense prevailed on him when Komal enrolled for the literacy programme. Today, not only do her parents see hope of being able to find a good husband for her, but have also started sending their other daughters for the programme,” said Manju Roy, the instructor of the programme.

“Komal is today looked upon with respect and not as a burden,” she added.

Students, who undergo this programme, attend classes of 100 minutes duration everyday, six days a week. The first 18 days are spent inculcating the sounds of letters and letter groups by the use of advanced memory techniques on a laptop.

The next 12 days are spent enhancing the learner’s ability to read words and sentences. Writing is taught throughout the programme and on the 30th day, a written comprehension test is given to the students.

“We are now trying to design a post-graduate programme to utilise these students’ new found skills and enthusiasm. We do realise that there is a huge gap between raising someone from illiterate to neo-literate, and giving them advanced job skills so that they become employable.

“Our new solution would offer to train these neo-literate rural people as entrepreneurs, plus give them vocational training in the vocation of their choice,” Sharma said.

The PACS programme is a seven-year initiative of DA, from 2001-08, to empower millions of poor in 108 most backward districts of the country.

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