In 2010, two-thirds of all illiterate adults in the world were women. In 2011, P4P’s global gender strategy projected that literacy training was one of the necessary steps towards empowering women farmers, particularly due to their lower literacy levels than men. This was confirmed by emerging lessons learned, which show that functional literacy is crucial for women to learn other skills, allowing them to manage farmers’ organizations and keep records of financial transactions.
Developing capacity through P4P
After participating in P4P training, many women realized the limitations posed by their inability to read and write. This led to some farmers’ organizations making arrangements to provide functional literacy training for their members. Literacy programmes have a variety of benefits, boosting women’s confidence, assisting them participate more fully in their households and communities, allowing them to better follow their children’s schooling and enabling them to keep records. Literacy training has been provided to P4P-supported farmers in diverse countries, including Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guatemala, Honduras, Liberia, Mali and Mozambique.
As a post-conflict country, DRC has posed a variety of challenges during the implementation of P4P, including lack of basic infrastructure and distrust among farmers following civil conflict. Encouraging women’s participation in P4P proved particularly challenging, in part due to a low literacy rate, with 43 percent of women over the age of 15 unable to read or write. This rate is even higher in rural areas. To increase women’s participation, literacy programmes were implemented in both districts where P4P operates, through partnership with a local NGO called BUCODED in the Kabalo territory in the eastern Katanga province, and Oxfam in the Bikoro territory in the western Équateur province. Through this project, nearly 2,000 women have been provided with literacy training in Swahili and Lingala. The programme also provided training in basic calculation skills and information on child-raising, sanitation, family planning, women’s rights and HIV/AIDS prevention to further improve the lives of women and their families. Local governments have been vital partners in project implementation, with support from the national government.
Increasing women’s engagement in DRC
Since the beginning of the literacy project in DRC, women’s participation in P4P-supported farmers’ organizations increased by 19 percent in Kabalo and 34 percent in Bikoro. Now, not only do more women participate in village farmers’ organizations, many have taken on leading roles, with 13 percent of leadership roles now occupied by women, from five percent previously. One such woman, Moma Maua Evaristine, who participated in the literacy project, is now the president of her farmers’ organization. The group, which is called BONIGE, has 25 members, of whom three are women. Moma says that thanks to the literacy programme she is now able to better manage her household, live and work independently, and participate in her farmers’ organization by managing the group’s warehouse.
“I am happy to have responsibilities as a woman in a group of men, because in my society, it is often said that a woman should not speak in a group where there are men, and especially should not speak directly to them. What I am doing now is a great joy to me,” Moma says.
In DRC, implementing the literacy programme has proven challenging due to a lack of timely funding, which has limited the number of spots available and caused the programme to be limited to nine months rather than 18. A symbolic fee of US$ 1 was a requirement for participation, contributing to the funding of parts of the training. Despite the introduction of this fee, interest in the training is still higher than the availability of resources can provide for. P4P and partners hope to respond to continued demand for literacy training by organizing a literacy activity focusing specifically on income-generating activities.