|Angolan Women Teach Literacy for Social Change|
With an election in 2006, church women from Angola want to ensure that the 70% of illiterate women know the issues that will specifically affect their lives and are empowered to vote in a country that has long been at war.
With a grant in June from the United Methodist Women’s Division to Church World Service, the Bible Women program – which has spread across South Asia – is going to help this happen.
The grant’s purpose is to increase the number of Methodist Churches in Angola using the pro-literacy method, a literacy tool that teaches women to read through symbols and pictures while also instructing women about issues ranging from HIV/AIDS to microcredit, domestic abuse, hygiene, and more. The women at the grassroots choose the issues that are important for them.
The program has touched the lives of thousands of women in the most rural villages of South Asia, but this will be the first time it reaches the African continent.
Deolinda Dorcas Teca is the director of justice, evangelism, reconciliation and cooperation for the Angolan Council of Churches, and one of the women who will be using the grant. She says that while teaching women to read, Bible Women will also be teaching women about violence, human rights, peace building, and voter participation.
“From 1975, the country was involved in war for almost 27 years. People were displaced. Many died. We feel that as the council of churches we need to strengthen our community in peace building and helping them to re-build, because it was what Jesus did,” Ms. Teca says.
With a free election in the works next year and peace on the horizon, refugees are returning from neighboring countries looking to re-build their lives. Meanwhile, others stayed in a country in turmoil and witnessed their own horrors. Now, the challenge is to teach people how to live together again peacefully, according to Ms. Teca.
“We have to share how we can make our elections peaceful, helping others see the elections as a right that everybody can participate in for social change. For us, it involves education on the human side,” she says.
Josefina Sandemba, director of the department of women for the Angolan Council of Christian Churches says that the United Methodist Women’s Bible Women program appealed to them, because the literacy techniques related to issues they were facing on a daily basis.
“First we begin with showing pictures so everyone can see and share from that picture,” she says.
The pictures show situations common in every day life, like domestic violence, according to Ms. Sandemba. Then the leaders asks: “What can we do?”
“We see domestic violence everywhere, in many, many communities. If we show them a picture of it, ask them how they feel in that situation, and what we can do to overcome the situation, everyone can plan what we can do about it. Everyone is responsible,” Ms. Sandemba says.
Culturally and because of the literacy rate, women in Angolan culture are left behind, according to Ms. Sandemba. “It makes them dependent,” she says. “When the community talks about issues related to women, they aren’t represented in the decision making.”
Women are most affected by the lack of water, she says as an example. They may walk miles each day to collect it, they use it to care for their family, they use it to cook. But when the community talks about water, the women don’t participate in the meetings. When there are events educating people about peace, women don’t attend, even though the violence directly affects them. Getting women into the dialogues is essential, Ms. Sandemba says.
“It’s important for us to empower women and make them confident in the participation of reconstruction. This is one of the objectives of the program of literacy for social change.”
United Methodist Women is a one-million member organization whose purpose is to foster spiritual growth, develop leaders and advocate for justice. Members raise some $25 million a year for programs and projects related to women, children and youth in the United States and more than 100 countries around the world.
Date posted: Jun 29, 2005