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Marissa Bronfman

Marissa Bronfman

Posted: December 18, 2009 01:07 PM

Literacy in India: A Gift That Never Stops Giving

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World Literacy of Canada gives gifts 365 days of the year through their literacy and empowerment programs in India and those gifts never stop giving. Learn more about this incredible organization and the immeasurable work they are doing to lift the veil of illiteracy and propel women into a future rife with possibility.


MAHILA MANDALS: WOMEN'S GROUPS

Since the early 1990s, every WLC program has given a pivotal role to Mahila Mandals -- literally "women's groups" in Hindi -- as they have proven to be extraordinarily powerful forces in promoting female literacy and empowerment in India. Initially formed by WLC to gain the trust and active participation of shy and wary women in rural communities, Mahila Mandals continue to provide a safe forum for women to come together, discuss important issues and devise plans of action to address and remedy these issues. There are now 98 Mahila Mandals throughout India and Nepal boasting an impressive total active membership of 3,582 and counting. These groups have promoted literacy, encouraged continued education, stimulated financial growth and entrepreneurship, fostered political activism and community advocacy, decreased violence against women, improved child and adult health and much, much more. These vital and revolutionary groups are the heart and soul of WLC's India programs and attest to the phenomenal power of women helping women.

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A health program; women part of a sewing project.

TEACHER ROLE MODEL INITIATIVE

One of the primary reasons why WLC programs in India are so effective is because they help women help themselves; it's a fabulous formula for success and the foundation of WLC's new Teacher Role Model Initiative. Eschewing top-down tactics notorious for failure, this new education initiative has taken a grassroots approach to promoting literacy in India by training 400 female high-school graduates from Varanasi's poor communities to become informal teachers. Once trained, these teachers will embark upon training other women in their communities, therein exponentially increasing literacy rates and feelings of empowerment. The Teacher Role Model Initiative is only in its nascent stages but is already causing ripples of hope; by equipping women with the tools they need to change their lives and the lives of women around them, there's no reason why they won't turn the tide of illiteracy in India.

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Teacher Role Model training; a mobile library.

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE PROGRAM

Learn more about how WLC is assisting women in developing new methods of income generation to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

VOICES OF FUTURE GRADUATES

Watch this heartwarming video of young students talking about their education and thanking Canadians for sending them to school. By donating $300 a year, you pay for a young girl's tuition and provide her with a uniform, school supplies, after school homework help and above all, a future.

KABADDI GAMES & FEMALE EMPOWERMENT

Women in India are flocking to the fields to play Kabaddi, an extremely rough contact sport traditionally played by boys and men in rural India that resembles football without the ball. Their recent foray into a once masculine domain is a testament to the empowering impact WLC's Mahila Mandals have had on women and symbolic of a new era in which women command respect and authority outside of the home. The muscle and might displayed by female Kabaddi players pales in comparison to the strength and determination with which they have learned to empower themselves and the women around them. They truly are a force to be reckoned with, on and off the field.

It is a very important activity for women's empowerment. It has given rural women the ability to participate in the world outside of the home... I have grown so much through Kabaddi. It has given me a new identity. Now I am a confident, strong woman: not a victim.

-- Girija Devi, 2008 Kabaddi championship match winner

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A Kabaddi game; an outdoor adult literacy class.

INTERNSHIPS IN INDIA & STORIES FROM THE FIELD

For a number of years, WLC has been hosting enthusiastic young Canadians passionate about literacy at their India office in the holy and ancient city of Varanasi, situated on the beautiful banks of the river Ganges. Intensive eight month internships are offered to university graduates under 30 in program areas such as children's education, adult literacy, libraries, community heath and income generation. These incredible, life-changing experiences have been chronicled on interns' blogs, offering readers a rare glimpse into a foreign and unfamiliar way of life. One woderful story is told by Thursica on the blog Notes From the 25th ParallelI. Inspired by female Kabaddi players, Thursica organized a karate class for young girls at the Tulsi Kunj library and was surprised when over 30 eager girls showed up for the first class! Like Kabaddi, karate's physical movements helped these girls cultivate in an inner and outward strength that fostered even greater female empowerment in the community.

Read more stories from past interns at www.worldlit.ca/fieldstories.html

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A karate class; kids celebrating International Women's Day.

BIG DAY OUT SUMMER CAMP

While many of WLC's programs are implemented in India, Big Day Out Summer Camp is one example of their commitment to raise awareness about the importance of literacy by engaging Canadian youth. Big Day Out is a day camp for children ages eight to 12 from Toronto's Jane and Finch community, one of the city's most insular, isolating and hostile enclaves. WLC takes these vulnerable youth on exciting educational trips around the city to expose them to culture, arts and even career opportunities. Big Day Out is a life-changing experience that educates and inspires, plants seeds of hope and paves paths for success.

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Big Day Out summer campers.


To learn more about World Literacy of Canada go to www.worldlit.ca and find out how YOU can help lift the veil of illiteracy in India.

Precarious economic times have made some WLC programs in India vulnerable to being shut down. Find out how YOU can help keep these incredible programs running by getting involved or purchasing a rare and special gift from WLC for family, friends and colleagues.

Give the gift of literacy this season!


 

Follow Marissa Bronfman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marissabronfman