Literacy and Women's Health

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					addition to these literacy materials, BCD-
CRW piloted ProLiteracy’s health literacy
                                               forest. PPLH discovered (as has ProLiteracy)
                                               that women tend to be the most effective
                                                                                              not infected. Africa has 12 million AIDS
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Women all over
program and ProLiteracy’s Good Health          change agents and willing participants in          In 2002, ProLiteracy launched a literacy   Improving lives and communities through adult literacy   the world play the
Begins at Home manual was adapted              such programs. PPLH, therefore, targeted       and AIDS initiative in seven countries in
and translated into Mandarin. After the        its instruction toward women and titled        Africa to empower parents and youth with
                                                                                                                                                                                                      central role in keeping
introduction of the ProLiteracy health         its effort the Village Women’s Program.        literacy-based information, practices, and                                                              their children and families healthy.
literacy program, physicians began to see      Women learn practical skills such as how       confidence for AIDS prevention, patient                                                                 Women grow, select, and prepare
a dramatic improvement in the hygiene          to make garden beds, mulch, plant seeds,       treatment, community organization, and
                                                                                                                                                                                                      the foods needed for healthy
and health practices of the learners. They     organic rice-growing techniques, grow          orphan care.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      bodies and most often, are in

became literacy instructors themselves         living fences, and prepare traditional
so they could integrate the health literacy    medicines. Women who participate               Staying Healthy with AIDS                                                                               charge of keeping the home clean
program into their medical practices.          in the Village Women’s Program have            The literacy curriculum for ProLiteracy’s                                                               and sanitary. When illness comes,
                                                                                                                                                      1320 Jamesville Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13210
                                               seen improved family health, improved          partner the Adult Literacy Organization of              315.422.9121 phone 315.422.6369 fax
                                                                                                                                                                                                      they are the family’s primary
Lifesaving Native Medicines                    sanitation, increased income generation,       Zimbabwe (ALOZ), includes a solid dose
Desperate to find a cure for her sick child,   and improved conservation.                     of AIDS education including some very                                                                   caregivers.
Yayuk Keisman, a native inhabitant of
the Javan rain forest, approached the
Seloliman Environmental Education
                                               HIV/AIDS PreVeNtIoN AND
                                                                                              innovative efforts to help HIV-infected
                                                                                              adults and their families to maintain a
                                                                                              healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious
                                                                                                                                             Literacy and                                             Women’s health is vital for thriving
                                                                                                                                                                                                      families and communities—
Center’s Pusat Pendidikan Lingungan
Hidup (PPLH), a research center near
her home. PPLH leaders, many of whom
                                                  Since 1981, more than 25 million people
                                               have lost their lives to AIDS. Women and
                                               children are the most vulnerable to the
                                                                                              diet. After more than 20 years of teaching
                                                                                              reading to adults in her native Shona
                                                                                              language, Zimbabwe educator Grace
                                                                                                                                             Women’s Health                                           however because of complex
                                                                                                                                                                                                      and inter-related factors such as
                                                                                                                                                                                                      poverty, malnutrition, inadequate
are world-renowned rain forest experts,        epidemic. Globally, and in every region, of    Kumbawa realized that her instruction
administered a traditional brew of native      the 39.5 million people living with AIDS in    had to include an emphasis on AIDS. “So                                                                 health care, poor educa tion, and
plants known as jamu to her son, and he        2006, 17.7 million are women. At the end       many of our learners and even some of          Wo M e N I N L I t e r Ac y:
                                                                                                                                                                                                      gender discrimination, women in
quickly recovered. Yayuk recalled at the       of 2006, women accounted for 48% of all        our teachers had died of AIDS,” she said,      crItIcAL ISSueS IN LIterAcy
                                                                                                                                                                                                      the developing world face many
time that her own childhood illnesses had      adults living with HIV worldwide, and for      explaining the importance of nutrition
been cured by jamu, but the knowledge          59% in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore,        in treating AIDS. “The people we teach                                                                  serious health problems.
of how to make the medicine had died           children under age 15 account for one          are too poor to pay for medicines and
                                                                                                                                                                                                      When women become ill, whole
with her grandparents. Following her son’s     in six AIDS-related deaths worldwide and       proper food. We show them how to plant
recovery, Yayuk became a participant in        one in seven new HIV infections -- the         nutritious gardens without having to buy                                                                families are placed in jeopardy.
the ProLiteracy sponsored PPLH literacy        vast majority through mother- to-child         fertilizers or pesticides. With a balanced                                                              Poor communities remain
education program where she learned            transmission. Many more children are           diet, they can fight off AIDS symptoms and
                                                                                                                                                                                                      underdeveloped and national
what her ancestors knew about the rain         affected by HIV even though they are           sustain their homes for many more years.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                      economies falter when women are
                                                                                                                                                                                                      too ill to contribute their talents
                                                                                                                                                                                                      and labor. The consequences of
                                                                                                                                                                                                      poor health are clear as millions
                                                                                                                                                                                                      of women are thwarted in their
                                                                                                                                                                                                      efforts to reach their potential.
1320 Jamesville Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13210 USA
(315) 422.9121 (435) 336.2472
Women in                               WoMeN, GIrLS, AND FAMILIeS                     pregnancies. Many who wish to delay             international adult literacy programs have
                                       At rISk                                        having children have no access to or are        attracted women in greater numbers
ProLiteracy programs                   Millions of families in underdeveloped         prevented from using birth control. Other       than men. In response to this demand,
                                                                                      women are pushed into childbearing              ProLiteracy organized Women in Literacy
in 65 countries                        nations live in desperate poverty,
                                       unable to get enough food to provide           by a culture that offers them no other          to formalize its expertise in developing
are reading, writing, discussing,      themselves with even minimally adequate        role but motherhood. Of the 210 million         literacy services for women. ProLiteracy’s
and acting their way to better         nourishment. This makes them all the           women who become pregnant every                 Women in Literacy program, launched
                                       more susceptible to infectious diseases        year, more than 529,000 will die annually       in 1991, has reached 1.6 million women
health for themselves and their
                                       such as HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, which        from pregnancy and childbirth related           in the United States and 65 developing
families. They are overcoming                                                         complications. When wives and mothers           countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and
                                       rarely cause death in anyone in developed
the most entrenched social and         countries, but which are responsible for       become ill or die, the lives and health of      the Middle East.
cultural obstacles and confronting     half of all deaths in the developing world.    whole families are placed at risk. Every year       Through Women in Literacy, ProLiteracy
                                          Millions of women are further               millions of young children die because          disseminates a model program that
the deeply rooted problems that
                                       endangered by their culture’s response to      their mothers, weakened by repeated,            integrates basic literacy instruction with
give rise to the horrors of poverty,   their gender, and girls and young women        closely spaced pregnancies, can no longer       a learning process that addresses health
hunger, and disease.                   are particularly at risk. Female genital       provide infants with breast milk or devote      care concerns of women around the
                                       mutilation, practiced in Africa, Asia, and     the effort needed to make sure toddlers         world. Participants in Women in Literacy          individual and group capacity to create       collect and distribute rain as an alternative
The literacy process results in        some Middle Eastern countries to control       are adequately nourished.                       programs acquire basic and advanced               participant-generated solutions to health-    source of drinking water. Learners have
permanent change because it            female sexuality, is performed annually on        Emphasis on early marriage in the            literacy skills, gather information relevant to   related and other daily-life problems. This   also built and installed 7,800 molded
                                       an estimated two million girls from 4 to       developing world places millions of             the health concerns they identify, develop        program is currently being adapted and        concrete latrines that use minimal water
invests women with the power
                                       16 years of age, often without anesthetic      physiologically immature girls and their        the organizational capacity needed to             modified for local cultures and translated    to flush and reduce water contamination.
to create change. Desperately                                                         infants at risk. Teenage mothers have a         address the underlying causes of ill-health,      into local languages.
                                       and under unsanitary conditions. Many
poor women unleash their own           girls who undergo this procedure die           significantly higher maternal death rate        and adopt new attitudes about themselves                                                        Publishing Health Materials
creativity and skills to address the   of shock and blood loss and many more          than their older sisters.                       and their ability to create change.               community Health Projects                     As editor of the national government
                                       experience long-term complications, such                                                           The centerpiece of this innovative            In the Dominican Republic, one-fifth of       periodical, China Women’s Daily, and
problems that waste their bodies
                                       as obstructed labor and chronic infection.     ILLIterAcy AND Poor HeALtH                      program is a publication and training             the people have no access to doctors or       the leader and founder of Rural Women
and minds. Communities learn to        The growing exploitation of women in the       Lack of education is a significant health       vehicle known as Good Health Begins               toilets and one-fourth have no source         Knowing All (RWKA) magazine, Xie Li Hua
work together to seek solutions to     sex industry in Africa and Asia is another     risk, and the relationship between the lack     at Home. This learning and action tool            of clean water. Many of these people          recognized there were no publications
                                       significant threat to women’s health. threat   of education and ill health among women         is designed to enable women and                   live in the poorest provinces of Azua,        aimed at the needs and perspective
broad-based health problems that
                                       to women’s health.                             and children is well documented. The            their families to improve their lives             San Juan, and Elias Piña near the Haitian     of China’s rural women. First published
affect everyone.                                                                      highest rates of illiteracy among women         and communities in three distinct but             border. ProLiteracy’s partner, FUNDASEP       nationwide in 1993, RWKA reaches
                                          Already exhausted by hard work,
                                       malnutrition, and disease, many women          are found in regions that report high rates     interrelated ways: literacy, health, and          (Fundación Azua-San Juan-Elias Piña), is      150,000 rural women and provides
ProLiteracy, through its Women
                                       are further depleted by repeated               of infant mortality, low life expectancy,       community problem-solving.                        a nongovernmental organization (NGO)          relevant information through columns on
in Literacy program, continues to                                                     and poor nutrition.                                 Through literacy, women learn and             based in three extremely poor provinces in    family, love and marriage, reproduction
support women-centered literacy                                                           Poorly educated women are more likely       apply basic and/or intermediate reading           the southwestern part of the country and      and health, science and technology,
programs around the world. It is                                                      to marry and start their families early and     and writing skills by using health-focused        works to link healthy people with a healthy   farming and education. While this
                                                                                      make less use of prenatal care and delivery     content material. The health program              environment. The first literacy primers       periodical was extremely popular in rural
an investment in women who will
                                                                                      assistance. Many do not know that germs         highlights issues and information that            that FUNDASEP offers are vida (life), agua    villages in numerous provinces of China,
restore their health, the health of                                                   cause disease and that simple dietary           all families need to consider in order            (water), and salud (health). Through these    its editors and writers soon discovered
their families and communities,                                                       changes can preserve their children’s           to prevent disease, treat sickness, and           primers and lively discussions, women         that a significant portion of China’s rural
                                                                                      lives, or that there are simple household       advance wellness in such areas as                 learn the importance of sanitation and        women lacked reading skills and had no
and the health of our world.
                                                                                      treatments they can use to nurse a sick         sanitation, nutrition, safety, and violence       how to prepare safe and nutritious family     access to the vital information contained
By Karen Norton                                                                       child. Women who are poorly educated are        prevention. The program emphasizes                meals. FUNDASEP translated and adapted        in the magazine. The often hidden and
                                                                                      less aware that an unsanitary household         various specific illnesses including AIDS,        ProLiteracy’s Good Health Begins at Home      ignored reality of rural illiteracy in China
                                                                                      and unclean drinking water can be lethal.       malaria, and diarrhea. This community             manual and integrated the program into        became the catalyst for forming an
                                                                                      They are less likely to seek out health-        problem-solving is a highly participatory         its existing activities. FUNDASEP helps       NGO—the Beijing Culture Development
                                                                                      related information services.                   process of learning and dialogue. Women           learners take action. Since 1992, groups      Center for Rural Women (BCDCRW).
                                                                                                                                      not only gain a common framework of               of learners have stocked and used more        The BCDCRW literacy program in Hebei
                                                                                      Literacy and Health                             knowledge and understanding, they                 than 500 botiquines (medicine chests) in      Province serves 500 women and develops
                                                                                      Since its formative years in the Philippines    develop mutual trust and vision needed            villages without health care. They have       primers on rural life and issues ranging
                                                                                      over 70 years ago, ProLiteracy Worldwide’s      for group action. This process strengthens        constructed cisterns and laid pipes to        from reproductive health to child safety. In

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