Providing opportunities of learning to women who have never been to school, is an essential step towards implementing an inclusive and sustainable development process. A literate woman who is aware of her rights will always be in a position to voice her opinion against discrimination and marginalisation. This is what influenced the staff members and mentors on field to take up the initiative of launching an adult literacy campaign in Barhampur Block of Nagaon district (Assam).
It was while conducting participatory planning exercise under the PRI-CBO Convergence project in the block, mentors realised that women from the Self-Help Groups did not have requisite reading or writing skills. The block, which has around eleven panchayats and 965 SHG’s, had very poor literacy levels among women. As an initial step towards addressing this issue, an adult literacy programme was decided to launch as a mass campaign. The beneficiaries of the campaign were identified through a survey which was conducted by LRGs (Community Cadre) in their respective VOs (Village Organisations). A list was prepared and submitted to mentors, based on which, a detailed plan was chalked out. It was decided that the classes will be conducted in respective villages and as per the convenience of the participants. Flexibility was ensured- both in timings and venue of the classes for an increased participation. In many of the places the panchayat building and anganwadi centres were used for conducting classes. Children from Balasabha studying above 8th std, LRGs (community cadre), college students, volunteers and retired teachers were engaged for teaching the women. The campaign began on November 2017 and came to an end on March 2018.
As an outcome of the literacy campaign, a total of 947 women learned to read and write their names along with the names of their SHG, VO and panchayat. Along with this, women also learned to put their own signatures. A total of 158 teachers supported this program.
For encouraging the initiative, functions for declaring the women literate were organised at VO and panchayat level. At the conclusion of the phase one of the campaign, a huge programme was organised at Block level where 522 beneficiaries came together and declared themselves literate in the presence of the Block Development Officer, Block Project Manager and other Block Mission Management Unit staff members on 21st March 2018.
The second phase of the campaign will also include women from outside the SHG fold and will cover financial and legal literacy apart from the regular literacy initiatives.