Reading, Writing and Women's Rights
Our literacy and financial education groups not only bring learning, but also gender parity.
In Burundi and Sudan/South Sudan Mothers' Union has been enabled to bring literacy learning to over 20,000 women, and men, in just over a decade. Thanks to generous funding from Comic Relief and a strong working relationship with Five Talents, Mothers' Union's literacy and financial education groups are stabilising family life and transforming lives for the better.
But these groups enable communities to share so much more than basic educational skills. One of the huge achievements of the groups has been the sharing of Women's Rights. As women are given education and value through the groups, attitudes towards women are subtly changing. Women and men discuss together the positive contributions of women, and find how much more women can do than raise a family and run a home. Contributing to the family income as a result of learning has seen many women enjoy greater parity in their married relationships.
But the empowerment is going beyond the family home. Women (and men) from the programmes, women previously not even aware of their right to vote or own propity, are now taking up positions of leadership in community life and speaking out to governments about the positive ways gender-equal policies can enrich nations. In Sudan and South Sudan, for example, where Comic Relief are in the second phase of a 10 year funding of Mothers' Union's work, over 13,773 women have been trained in awareness of their ownn rights, and of these, 35% are now actively advocating these rights to extended audiences within their communities. Mothers' Union's coordinator equips Mothers' Union and the Literacy group members across the country to take part in International Women's Day publically calling for peace, recognition of the value of women and encouraging women to speak out for peace.
In Juba over 1,000 people attend the #IDW ev ent including government ministers and a public march and public meeting is held. Beneficiaries from the Literacy & Financial Education programme demonstrate the businesses they've founded as a result of the learning - obviously raising awareness of the positive impact on the economy and sustainability of the country that women can have. Drama is used to convey to the wider audience the impact women can have and the need to empower women, and educate girl children. Ayak Anyieth Kok, from Renk is just one woman who has spoken out on International Women's Day. In 2015, in frtong of an audience of over 500 people this previously illiterate woman spoke about how being a beneficiary of the programme had enabled her to join the police force and become a Council Member in Renk. She spoke out for peace and for women to play their part in the reconcilation process so vitally needed in conflict-riven South Sudan.
In Burundi group members also speak out on International Women's Day holding public rallies, and speaking on national radio stations. Mothers' Union Programme Coordinator here, Claudette Kigeme has spoken of the gender empowerment success of the programme at the international level, and she has several times spoken as Mothers' Union's representative at the United Nations Commision on the Status of Women.
In March 2016 Mothers' Union will again be speaking out for gender equality at the 60th UN CSW in New York. (read our statement here.) Mothers' Union, both in Burundi and across many countries of the world, is calling for governments to put in place legal frameworks that protect women from gender-based violence.