It costs $300 to educate twenty-five women to a fifth-grade level in reading, writing, and simple math. Classes meet for two hours a night, five nights a week for a year. The $300 cost covers a small honorarium for the teacher, primers, slates and chalk, and a gas lamp where electricity is unavailable. Besides literacy, classes also raise awareness of hygiene, health and sanitation, improve the women’s social status and household income, teach moral and ethical values, and introduce women to the God of the Bible. Most literacy classes choose to continue as ongoing women’s self-help groups once students have graduated.
For most of us, literacy is such a part of our everyday world, it’s almost impossible to imagine life without it. But for nearly 300 million adults in South Asia, 68% being women and girls, the darkness and shame of being unable to read, write or do simple math is an everyday reality. The Women’s Empowerment Project, started by Jerry and Marilyn Hogshead, is changing that reality for nearly 600 women involved in twenty adult literacy classes.
As the dramatic testimonies of the first graduates spread, our South Asian team is getting more and more requests to start new classes in areas where none exist. Because current classes are all full and there are no additional funds to start more, Jerry and Marilyn created the “Gift of Literacy” as a way for others to help fund new classes so poor women and girls who never had the opportunity for an education can become literate.
The testimonies of transformation from the first 128 graduates are quite amazing:
- “I feel I am now a free and self-respecting woman. Now I know I am a valuable member of society.”
- “The day [I was accepted into my class], I felt I had overcome my world. It was unbelievable for me, the love and respect I began to receive in my family.”
- “When I wrote my name for the first time, I cannot express the joy I experienced.”
- “Now my husband salutes me and my children are honoring me.”