Development agencies have found two predictable indicators for longevity among women in developing countries: accessible clean water and literacy skills. Another well-known fact is that in some societies, discrimination exists in educational opportunities based on a gender bias.
The consequences become evident in the numbers. For example, in one African country alone the literacy rate among men is 26% while among women it is 11%. Other statistics further highlight that evidence: of the 1 billion illiterates in the world, two thirds of them are women!

Another consequence of illiteracy is the pressure put upon the population dynamics because of family size. Literate women average 2 children per family while illiterate women give birth to 6–8 children.
Literacy then, especially in a language a woman understands, ought to make a difference in her life and consequently in the life of her family.
Note the following information supportive to this issue:
  • educated women are more likely to use health clinics and return to the clinic if their children’s health does not improve.
  • educated women tend to begin their families at a later age and have fewer, healthier children.
  • a 1% rise in women’s literacy is 3 times more likely to reduce deaths in children than a 1% rise in the number of doctors. (Based upon a United Nations study of 46 countries.)
  • for women, 4 to 6 years of education led to a 20% drop in infant deaths (Based on the same UN study mentioned above.)
  • women with more education generally have better personal health and nutrition.
  • the families of women with some education tend to have better housing, clothing, income, water, and sanitation.

Alta spends an enormous amount of time in rural villages to make sure all women in the villages has the opportunity to become literate.  With nearly 4 000 women in the program to date the logistic challenges are many.  But this is not the only problem for Mozambican women.  Without addiquit medical facilities the literacy problem expands rapidly.  With many women struggling with their eyes this problem causes some headaches.  Luckily an optometrist from Stellenbosch, South Africa Dr. Anina Potgieter came to our rescue by providing reading glasses for women.  This suddenly changed many things.  The eagerness of older ladies to study how to read and write increased dramatically.

We use the Bible to help women to read and write.  Men will only allow their women to attend schools if the Bible is used.  This helps us tremendously too.  Take mrs. Orteria for example.  She is in her 50’s and has never had the opportunity to learn the basic reading and writing skills.  But due to her bad eye sight she gave up on ever mastering any reading or writing skills.  The new reading glasses changed all of this.  It was a happy day when after receiving her glasses and continue to successfully finish her literacy classes, she proudly got her Bible in her mother-tongue and started to read.  The class irrupted in praise and dance for mrs. Orteria.  Needless to say ….. the proud look of achievement on her face made me cry.

PHOTO:  Ladies work hard to achieve their ultimate goal – being able to read and write.  There is no or very little teaching aids available to create an effective learning environment.  But their perseverance always pays off – even if it means carrying the children with them in the classes.

PHOTO:  Another proud achievement as an older lady receives her new Shona Bible after successfully achieving her goal.

PHOTO:  Eunice has mastered Shona and English and helping other ladies in the bush to accomplish their dreams.

PHOTO:  With the absolute basics to learn ….. they make absolutely the most of it!