What happens when you can’t read? If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you don’t know. In this country we promote literacy, there are laws requiring people to go to school, and even if you don’t enjoy curling up by the fire with a novel, one of the classics, in hand, you know how to read. You can read your bible. You know enough to fill out applications for a loan, a job, school, or financial assistance. You can read a newspaper to know what is happening in your community or in the world. You know how to open a bank account and write checks to pay your bills.
But in many parts of the world learning to read and write is reserved for the rich. Or for men. An estimated 250 million women in Asia are illiterate. In some cultures, the norm is that men are educated and women are not. That might work as long as the woman marries well, and her husband takes care of here, their children, and the finances. But what about someone like Dayita?
Her husband worked as a laborer to provide for their family, but it wasn’t enough to make ends meet, and so Dayita found a job sewing clothes to supplement her husband’s income. She faithfully deposited her meager wages into the joint bank account, but even with her wages to help, there was still never enough. So she worked harder, but there was still too much month left at the end of the money. Her husband managed the finances, and so certain things had a priority when it came to being funded. Instead of feeding the family, Dayita’s man was feeding his drinking habits.
Finally Dayita was able to open a bank account of her own, but because she couldn’t read or write, she needed help filling out the deposit or withdrawal slips. Luckily for Dayita, there were two women in her village willing to do more than fill out the forms and show her where to make her mark.
Two women from the local Women’s Fellowship started a literacy class. They teach two-hour sessions, using a bible based curriculum. It took two months for Dayita to learn how to deal with the bank deposit and withdrawal slips. Now she can do that and more. She can read the names of buses and bus stations, and is learning about the love of Jesus.
Dayita is one of the lucky ones; her husband supports her efforts to learn to read and write. He no longer has access to her money to support his drinking habit, but Dayita is still allowed to go to school. We may take it for granted, but literacy is truly a precious gift, and the Gospel for Asia ministry of literacy classes for women is truly changing lives.
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