“Education means a lot for women: avoiding early pregnancy; being able to read the instructions and receipt when in the hospital; knowing the age and birthday of their kids.” Maria Henrique Francisco, a literacy teacher, describes the positive effects of education, in particular literacy classes, on women’s lives.
At 29 years old, Florinda João is a mother of six children. She had to drop out of school at 16 when she became pregnant with her first child. In 2015, Florinda had the opportunity to return to school and learn to read and write thanks to a UNESCO project implemented in Mozambique through the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education, and in synergy with the Capacity Development for Education Programme (CapED).
Florinda is not alone in this situation. In Mozambique, around 45% of the adult population is illiterate. Illiteracy rates for women are even higher, at 58%. This is a challenge for families. Parents with low literacy levels tend to earn less and this can negatively affect the household, including their children’s school performance and ability to read and write. It can also contribute to an intergenerational cycle of poverty and illiteracy.
In an attempt to break this cycle, UNESCO and the Ministry of Education and Human Development implemented a three-year project from 2015 to 2017. The project used family learning approaches, specifically targeting young women, and provided basic education as well as vocational and entrepreneurial skills to vulnerable communities in three selected districts of Mozambique (Boane, Erati and Memba).
Providing women with the ability to carry out even seemingly simple acts - such as identifying the names of public buses, reading SMS messages, making small calculations, or signing ID cards - has a large positive impact and value in their lives, and the lives of their families.
In cooperation with some of her classmates from the literacy classes she follows, Florinda has opened a small business to sell second hand clothes. The literacy skills she and her classmates received as part of project have enabled them to manage the small business and make a profit. “I can keep track of costs and calculate profits,” shared Florinda. Her ability to read and write has also facilitated commercial exchanges.
Targeting women with literacy programmes and improving their ability to earn a living can bring about significant change. Women will often re-invest a large share of additional income for the well-being of their children, as Florinda exemplifies, “With the profits I am making, I am able to buy books for my children’s education, in addition to more nutritious food for them.”
The project recently underwent an external evaluation to identify project results, lessons learned and to make recommendations for future interventions. The evaluation will serve as a basis for evidence-based policymaking, and contribute to the strengthening and sustaining of girls’ and women’s education initiatives undertaken in Mozambique with UNESCO’s support.