Origins of our Work
Beginning in 2000 our Literacy and Financial Education Programme (LFEP) was designed to give a holistic approach to empowering some of the most marginalised communities in the world whilst meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The programme uses participatory methods to enable communities to acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills whilst discussing and planning action on their daily issues and challenges.
In Burundi and Sudan/South Sudan Mothers' Union members have brought 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, our LFEP groups are stabilising family and community life.
All literacy circles and savings groups are open to everyone, crossing the boundaries of religion, age, gender or tribe, enabling community unity. Our programme has been especially effective in reaching those who are the most marginalised in society including groups previously discriminated against such as the Twa pygmy tribe in Burundi and displaced communities in Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan.
These groups enable communities to share so much more than just basic educational skills. The programme specifically focuses on building knowledge and skills in business development and community savings group formation for its members. As a result women are now gaining financial independence, have more autonomy to manage their lives and are participating in household decision-making as well as community politics and leadership.
One of the huge achievements we have seen is that as women are given education and value through the groups, attitudes towards them gradually change. Both genders discuss together the positive contributions of women, and realise 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 equality in their married relationships.
Mothers’ Union works in South Sudan in partnership with the international organisation Five Talents who are supporting the LFEP that also has Trauma Healing built into it.
What is Trauma Healing?
The Trauma Healing aspect of the programme seeks to bring together ex-combat participants from all sides to speak to each other in dialogue. It also draws in members of the police and prison services to get their perspective. Ex-combatants are able to acknowledge the pain they may have caused as well as come to terms with their own trauma.
The groups have benefitted in many ways from discussing their trauma through the lens of healing and progress. For example, the relationships in the groups have deepened. This has primarily been as a result of being able to share their grief together and minister to one another through the relevant biblical knowledge.
Overall, participants have been able to forgive those who have hurt them and this has freed them to pursue opportunities that life has to offer, rather than dwelling on their pain. Despite the atrocities that they have witnessed and that have had an impact on them directly, they have learned that they can forgive and start a new life.
The groups have benefitted from the trauma healing as there is no more fighting in the community. The individuals even now advise other community members on how to resolve local disputes justly.
The Doors of Trust
The most notable point that a lot of groups involved shared (during a survey) is to do with opening the ‘doors of trust’. This means that they are more open to the wider world, including foreign agencies and other types of NGO. A topical example of this trust in action is that without it they would not have believed the information about COVID-19.
In other words, relationships in the communities where LFEP is working were so divided that COVID-19 sensitization would have gotten no traction prior to participants embracing the Trauma Healing principles and recognizing the need for forgiveness in themselves and within the community. The unchecked pandemic would have added to the tragedy.
The Evidence of Success
Success is evident in that rather than keeping the information to themselves, the facilitators and members were actively using their platforms to sensitize their groups and their communities. This has led to greater levels of inter-ethnic communication and mutual support (for example, sharing costs for CV19 prevention materials such as jerrycans, soap etc).
It is an instance in which the Trauma Healing groups have not only brought people together but have helped communities and the world at large by reducing infection rates in this part of a developing nation.