The International Day of Rural Women observed on 15th October aims to recognise the role of women in improving rural development and food security. Higher rates of illiteracy and limited fora for communication, mean that the hard work that rural women do in sustaining families, putting children through school and contributing to economic development often go unnoticed.
Improving literacy for rural women in Sierra Leone
In Sierra Leone, over 2/3 of rural women are illiterate. Many women survive through subsistence farming with limited other opportunities available to them. Poor infrastructure and limited access to credit, means that raising enough income to support the care and education of children is often a struggle; made worse in female headed households.
ChildHope with its partner Future Focus Foundation in Sierra Leone is supporting mothers to improve their livelihoods in the rural areas of Small Bo and Nongowa chiefdom in Kenema, Eastern Sierra Leone. Started in January 2014 our project funded by the Jersey Overseas Aid Committee has already:
- Taught literacy to 100 women in four communities. Learners are highly motivated and can now identify letters and other signs.
- Provided micro-business training/grants and set up 6 group savings schemes with 180 women. Already one of the women involved has established a small table market selling assorted commodities to the whole village. Meetings of the groups are ongoing and the savings and credit schemes are thriving.
- 60 men and women received training in gender empowerment for livelihood improvement and gender justice. These learners are raising awareness amongst friends and neighbours of gender laws and rights. 120 households have already participated.
Success is shown not just by the numbers but the stories of the women themselves:
"I never thought I could ever identify and read a single letter of the alphabet, but now; I can read and write the entire alphabet, write and sign my name and even read from simple readers. I thank God and Future Focus Foundation for making this a reality in my life" .
Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone
The outbreak of the Ebola viral disease in Sierra Leone since May 2014 has put these gains at risk. Literacy classes have had to stop. Efforts to contain the outbreak have resulted in quarantining in the areas where this project has been working. Quarantining protects others from infection but, restricts children's movement from outside the home, limits families' ability to provide food, clean water and hygiene materials, increasing distress, hunger and conditions for other health complications. ChildHope is working with its partner to raise funds to provide emergency relief of food, clothing, soap and disinfectant to families affected and hopes that our project to provide sustainable solutions for education and livelihoods of rural women and their families will be able to continue in the near future.