June 2014, Malakand: Ms. Kakai is 55 and comes from the village of Roshni. “I could not attend classes in school due to lack of educational facilities in our village,” says Kakai “I felt like I was deaf and dumb in front of literate people. I always wished to read and write.”
Now she can. That’s thanks to the PEACE programme, which is helping women like Kakai acquire those precious reading and writing skills.
To date, PEACE has set up a total of 129 Adult Literacy Centers (ALCs). Run by women for women; these offer five-month courses that teach not just basic literacy—how to read and write—but also numeracy, how to do sums. Women attend the courses for three hours a day and at the end, they’ve got what the experts call a “functional command over literacy and numeracy skills.” This means, roughly, that they can read, write and calculate, not perfectly, but as well as they need to.
“I may not be a very educated person,” says Kakai “but now I can proudly make basic calculations and read and write different names.” In fact, Kakai is so confident that she is now teaching other women some reading and writing basics—and thanks to another PEACE scheme, she’s thinking of going into business.
Rafida, a resident of Totakan village, is also delighted with how the course has changed her life. She never went to school as a child, got married at 17, and at 36 still had no education. She said she always found it embarrassing not to be able to read or write basic messages.
So when she heard about PEACE’s ALCs, she asked her husband if she could attend one. He said yes, so she did. She’s very happy with the results of the five-month course, especially with the fact that she now understands the homework that teachers set her kids—and can help them with it!
And then there’s Syasat Bibi, who lives in Shangla district. To put it mildly, Syasat hasn’t had an easy life. A childhood illness left her partially paralysed. Her family was too poor to send her to school and now she has the responsibility of looking after her father, who is old and sick. But Syasat isn’t easily discouraged.
When an ALC opened near her, she applied to join the course. It worked. “I am able to read now!” says a proud, smiling Syasat. “When I joined the center, I could not read or write anything, but now I can read the expiry dates on my father’s medicines and can also check the last dates and amounts of our electricity bills.”
The world is a much more manageable place when you can read. And as Ms. Kakai recently learned, it’s never too late to learn.
The ALCs are proving popular.
By July 2014, no fewer than 1,302 women had successfully completed five-month courses at the first 53 ALCs, with a further 1,900 women enrolled in the 76 more recently established ALCs. It’s not surprising. Apart from being useful, reading and writing can boost a woman’s confidence.
Programme for Economic Advancement and Community Empowerment (PEACE)
Total Budget: EUR 40 million
October 2012 – October 2016