Building peace in the minds of men and women

Textile company wins UNESCO Prize for its literacy and vocational training programme in rural Senegal

06 September 2019

The Senegalese Textile Fibres and Development Company (SODEFITEX) is awarded the 2019 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize for its programme ‘Functional literacy and follow-up vocational training in national languages for farmers in southern Senegal’.

SODEFITEX started providing literacy courses in 1982 to farmers with limited or non-schooling in Southern Senegal as part of their work. In 1990, the Dakar-based textile company expanded the programme by offering vocational training for learners having successfully completed the literacy courses, continuing its multilingual approach in all three national languages: Pulaar, Mandinka and Wolof, which are also the learners’ mother languages.

“The company aims at creating a literate environment by guiding the farmers benefiting from the programme, aged 20 to 45, from a state of illiteracy to mastering basic literacy and numeracy skills in the national languages,” says Abdoulaye Mbaye, Head of the Training and Innovations Department of SODEFITEX.

Specialized teachers regularly strengthen their methodology and knowledge in adult education through annual trainings. The methodology includes developing activities that are directly linked to the daily lives of learners, such as agriculture, family life and everyday life in rural areas.

Improving the lives of farmers through literacy programme

By providing training in technical and professional skills to local farmers, the programme not only increases the overall productivity, but also significantly improves the living conditions of the producers:

“Building a literate environment can be useful in daily life in relation to active citizenship, prevention against health risks related to pesticides, hygiene, etc. The impact is real with visible remarkable behavioral changes,” ayes the SODEFITEX representative.

63,735 people from rural areas, of which 25 percent are women, have already received a certificate of achievement. The Senegalese company now hopes to develop its programme further.

“The expansion of this approach would be a huge step forward for our economy and the productivity of informal craft trades in both rural and urban areas,” says Abdoulaye Mbaye.

With the Prize’s recognition, the new laureate intends to continue promoting literacy and skills development and to increase the programme's reach and efficiency, while leading the way to inspire other similar initiatives: That would be ‘a huge step forward for our economy.

“This prestigious award will significantly improve the visibility of this model, and partners in national language literacy programmes will be able to support more projects of this kind.”

This year’s UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will be awarded to laureates from Algeria, Colombia, Indonesia, Italy and Senegal on the occasion of International Literacy Day. The Prize Award Ceremony will take place during the global event for International Literacy Day on 9 September at UNESCO Headquarters. This year’s International Literacy Prizes and global event are organized around the theme of ‘literacy and multilingualism’.

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