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.