News / Africa

Liberia Literacy Program Targets Women

Ciata Victor instructs an unidentified lady inside her  Internet cafe in Monrovia, (File photo).
Ciata Victor instructs an unidentified lady inside her Internet cafe in Monrovia, (File photo).
Jennifer Lazuta
A new education program in Liberia is teaching women in their 30s, 40s and 50s how to read and write - something that only a quarter of the country’s women can do. The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said that more such second-chance programs are needed to educate the world’s estimated 516 million women who remain illiterate.

More than two-thirds of all illiterate adults are women. The majority of the women live in West Africa, where many girls never get the chance to go to school.
Pauline Rose, head of UNESCO’s global monitoring report on Education for All, said that being illiterate poses a huge problem for women in day-to-day life. 

"Some of the things people say is: that I can’t read the number on buses; I can’t pick up a medicine bottle and read the label and understand how many spoons of the medicine to take, for example. So there are real practical concerns about when women are illiterate," she explained. "It affects not only themselves but also their families. They are often the main caregivers for children. And when women are illiterate they are less like to make use of health services.”
Rose noted that illiterate women are also more likely to die in childbirth and that their children are more likely to be malnourished.
Some countries, such as Senegal, have improved women’s literacy rates through government efforts to enroll more girls in primary school and community awareness programs on the importance of female education.  But there are still many countries, such as Guinea, Niger, Benin, Mali and Burkina Faso, where less than one in four women can read and write.

Rose said literacy programs that target women are needed in these countries.
“In terms of this huge number of young women and adults who are already illiterate, there is obviously a need to have second-chance programs to ensure that they are able to become literate. That we can’t neglect them, just because they are no longer of primary school age,” stated Rose.
In Liberia, where just 27 percent of women are literate, the government has launched a massive second-chance literacy campaign to teach women.  The women either never got to go to school or were forced to drop out due to the country’s more than 10 years of civil war.
 Lonee Smith, 35,  a student at the Firestone Liberia Natural Rubber Company’s adult literacy school in Margibi County, said having a second chance at education has changed her life.
“Today, I am a happy woman. I’m very proud. I’m in the first grade. I can read and write," she said. "In the past, I couldn’t do that. My parents never sent me to school. But today I am happy that I can read and write. I’m a market woman. Now, I can sell my goods and count my profit with no one helping me. I am grateful."
Liberia’s Ministry of Education said there are approximately 5,000 women, such as Smith, currently enrolled in adult literacy programs across the country.

UNESCO’s Rose said that while this is a good step forward, such programs need to be expanded in order to reach the millions of other women.

You May Like

Video Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs