Women’s Literacy = Women’s Liberty

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”
Kofi Annan

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015 was an important day for lots of parents and their children. It was an important day for my family.  It was my son’s first day back to school. This year he will be in grade 2 . It was wonderful seeing parents and their kids filing into the school. The halls were crowded and noisy as we squeezed our way to the gym where the children were to line up before heading to the auditorium for the greeting and morning prayer. As I looked at the children in their uniforms, I thought of how what a blessing it is to be able to go to school.

September 8 was an important day for another reason. It was International Literacy Day, a day first proclaimed as such on November 17, 1965 by UNESCO. It was first celebrated in 1966 and its objective has always been to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. The theme for this year was Literacy and Sustainable Societies and the Day marked the 50th anniversary of the World Congress of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy. It is a day when the world is reminded of how important learning is.

International Literacy Day gives children and communities a chance to rediscover the joys of reading while raising awareness for those without access to education.

Can you imagine being a mother and unable to read your child’s school report or help him with his homework because you can’t read or write?  What if you couldn’t read the Bible or a bedtime story to your child or a Mother’s Day or birthday card?  Sadly, there are women in South Asia who can’t read or write.  Can you believe that over 30% of Asian women are illiterate? In fact, more than one out of every three women in Asia are illiterate!

There is hope, thanks to Gospel for Asia’s Literacy Program.  Through literacy classes held by GFA supported local Women’s Fellowships, women are learning how to read, write, do basic math, some of life’s most basic lessons, and, most importantly, they are learning how to read and study God’s Word on their own.  What a joy it must be to be able to read about a loving God and a Savior who gave His life for them.  And better yet, they can read to their children.

So women volunteered to teach literacy classes to other women. The program expanded into several states and two countries, so a standardized curriculum was developed.

In this day and age, it is hard to believe that there are so many people who still cannot read or write.  Last year, Gospel for Asia supported the work of missionaries who saw International Literacy Day as an opportunity to raise awareness of the value of women’s literacy and to share the Gospel.

Gospel for Asia literacy imageI rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure – Psalm 119:162

Do you want to bring hope to women by helping to make it possible for them to read and study God’s Word?  Find out how you can do so here.  Reading and writing are basic necessities of life that everyone should have.  Women who learn how to read, write and do basic Math will be able to provide for their families.  You will be helping a woman to keep her children safe because she can read the warning labels or from being cheated at the marketplace because she knows basic Math.  Think of how different your life would be if you couldn’t read your Bible, recipes, emails or letters.  Then think of the freedom you enjoy from being literate and how you can help to liberate these women too.

Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens President Bill Clinton on International Literacy Day, September 8th 1994

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia, International Literacy Day, UNESCO

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Nepalese Woman Finds Hope

“The Lord has blessed me in such a wonderful way that He has provided shelter, food, special care and attention through His people,” Shiuli says.

What does a 14 year old know about being a wife and a mother?  She should be in school getting a good education.  At 14 most girls aren’t even allowed to date.   Most girls are not thinking about marriage and if they were, it would be an event which would take place in the distant future, when they are older and ready to make that kind of commitment.  Their parents do not arrange their marriages.  They marry whom they choose.  They marry for love.

In some countries, it is considered statutory rape when an adult has relations with a girl 16 years old or younger.  In other countries, young girls are given in marriage.  Nepal is one of these countries.  In fact, child marriages are the norm there.

Child marriage is a global problem which affects millions across the world but especially girls in South Asia. The Government of Nepal has signed many international instruments designed to tackle this problem and has passed a law forbidding child marriage but has found it difficult to eradicate the phenomenon due to weak enforcement and low levels of awareness – World Vision, Nepal.

It’s a problem that continues to persist in Nepal.  According to a report on the website for Girls Not Brides, “As is often the case elsewhere, child marriage is more common in rural areas than urban areas, and rates are particularly high in the hilly and mountainous regions. In certain ethnic groups, the rate of marriage before 15 can reach 83.1%. Castes also play a role, as lower caste girls are generally under greater pressure than higher caste girls to marry while still at school.”

This is the case of Shiuli, a young Nepalese woman.  Shiuli grew up  in a quiet mountain village of central Nepal with her family and friends nearby.   Life changed and hardship began for Shiuli when at the age of 14 her parents arranged her marriage to a man named Tarun.  After they were married the couple moved to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.  It must have been hard for Shiuli to be away from her family and friends.  She was in a strange city with a husband she hardly knew.

Tarun found a job in the carpet industry.  At a later date Shiuli began working there as well.  In the following years, the couple had three daughters.  Then, Tarun became sick and never recovered.  He died.  After seven years of marriage Shiuli was left alone to raise three daughters and struggle to care for them and herself.  She had no one to help her.  Her family was miles away.  She was in a big city, living among 700,000 people and things only got worse.

Desperately poor and unable to provide for her children because of lack of money, Shiuli was forced to do something no parent should ever have to do–watch her youngest daughter starve to death.  As a mother, my heart breaks for Shiuli.  I can’t imagine the pain she must have suffered as she watched helplessly as her daughter died, unable to do anything about it and the toll it must have taken on the other two girls.  Shiuli worried that she would die and leave her two daughters helpless and defenseless against abuse.  She had been through enough calamities.  She couldn’t wait for any more to hit her.  There was nothing anyone could do to help her so she had to do something.  She needed answers to her problems so she went searching.

She figured that religion was the answer.  To her there was little difference between the religion she had grown up in and the other two major ones.  She went to several religious centers and offered the little money she had along with other sacrifices to the gods, hoping for a response but none was forthcoming.  She sought the help of different religious figures, hoping to find peace but it was all in vain until one day visitors came to her workplace.

Three women missionaries told Shiuli that they were followers of Jesus Christ and they explained to her who Jesus was and His sacrifice on the cross.  Shiuli listened to them and their kind words brought her the answers she had been searching so desperately for.  She poured out her heart to them, sharing her sad story and they in turn shared God’s love for her and His plan to free her from her burdens.  The words of these three women filled Shiuli with the peace that had long been evading her.  She knew she could take refuge in Jesus who had brought His peace into her life which had been beset with hardship and unimaginable pain.

The missionaries found her a church where she could connect with other believers and learn more about the Lord.  She accepted His offer of peace and is growing in the Lord at a church supported by Gospel For Asia (GFA) with the help of the pastor and other women missionaries supported by GFA.

Shiulu went looking for answers and peace but found none in her search.  Jesus came to her through the three missionaries and gave her all that she needed and more.  Sometimes we go searching but sometimes the Lord sends His servants to find us.

I thank Jesus and the missionaries who have turn this young woman’s life completely around.   “The Lord has blessed me in such a wonderful way that He has provided shelter, food, special care and attention through His people,” Shiuli says.

If you want to see other women like Shiulu find the answers they are searching for and be led to Christ, sponsor women missionaries.  In South Asia, many women like Shiuli need someone they can turn to who can tell them about the God they can take refuge in but in some societies cultural restrictions prevent women from talking to male missionaries.  So, they can only be reached by other women.  Help change another woman’s life.  Give her hope.  Sponsor a woman missionary.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest – Matthew 11:28

Shiuli’s story is one of inspiration.  No matter how hard life becomes and how helpless we may feel, there is always hope.  No matter how long it takes, we will find the answers we are searching for.  We will find that wonderful peace only Jesus Christ can offer us.

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Source:  http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/nepalese-woman-finds-hope-amidst-great-loss/; http://www.wvi.org/nepal/publication/child-marriage-nepal; http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/nepal/