[Assessment 1274] International Women' Day Message

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tsticht at znet.com tsticht at znet.com
Wed Mar 5 16:46:00 EST 2008

March 8th, 2008 is International Women's Day

Honoring Three Women Literacy Workers

Tom Sticht
International Consultant in Adult Education

For many years Namtip Aksornkool of Thailand was a senior specialist in
literacy and women's education at UNESCO. In addition, she served for a
number of years as the lead coordinator for UNESCO's International Literacy
Day. It was in this latter capacity that I had the chance to work with
Namtip during my years as a member of UNESCO's International Literacy Prize
Jury that selected the annual winners of UNESCO literacy prizes. Through her
work, Namtip helped to focus literacy efforts in many nations on the
particular needs of women and girls. I was able to obtain and read reports
and books she prepared calling attention to the needs of women for literacy
education and the efforts of literacy workers.

In one of these reports, "On the Ground: Adventures of Literacy Workers
(UNESCO, 2002) ," Namtip related some of her own adventures in Namibia to
educate adults about HIV/AIDS. She made the point that "Literacy workers
must be prepared to travel by all modes of transport - helicopters, trains,
jeeps, four wheelers, horses, camels, mules, elephants and, yes even by a
human being!" Namtip herself made many missions to nations by these various
means of travel. She recorded some of her impressions in On the Ground and
stated, "Authorities always stipulate, often in official policy papers, how
important women's empowerment is to their country's development. Yet
experience shows that they rarely act on their word - to their own economic
detriment." With this sort of straightforward commentary, unusual for a
UNESCO official, Namtip was able to achieve many important literacy
outcomes for women and girls. It was always a pleasure for me to have a
coffee with Namtip in the café on the 7th floor of UNESCO Headquarters in
Paris while discussing adult literacy education needs and UNESCO's work to
meet these needs. A good example of informal education for me!

>From 1985 to 2001, Martha Mvungi of Tanzania served in the position of

President of the International Literacy Prize Jury. She brought to the Jury
a deep understanding of the African region and the meaning of the saying
that "it takes a village to raise a child." Martha focused upon the role
of the community in supporting literacy programs and she was always sure to
remind the Jury of the special needs of women for literacy, especially the
intergenerational effects that educating women can have on children's
education. This is one of the kinds of "multiplier effects" that the Jury
noted can result from adult literacy education. This refers to the common
finding that when adult's acquire literacy, this doesn't just increase
their literacy, it frequently also increases their economic, community, and
civic standings.

In her 1996 report to Mr. Federico Mayor, then Director-General of UNESCO,
following the Jury's meeting, Martha wrote a section which called for
placing more emphasis on the multiplier effects of adult literacy
education. She said, "The Jury is also of the view that emphasis on the
intergenerational transfer of educating the family can reap the long-term
effects of sustained literacy and education. Once the family, and in
particular the adult, is literate, the
chances that their children will
also go to school are very high,
This message has to be said over and
over to encourage efforts in literacy to be appropriately directed towards
adults and the family."

Later this intergenerational effect of adult literacy education was also
expressed as educational policy by Rosa Maria Torres of Ecuador, with whom
I worked for a couple of years when she was a member of the UNESCO
International Literacy Prize Jury in 2001 and 2002.

In an online internet article posted in 2003 (The fundamental linkages
between child, youth and adult learning and
Rosa Maria stated that, "Adult Basic Education and Learning (ABLE) cannot
continue to be viewed in isolation, as a separate educational goal
rather as part of the overall education, training and learning system and
policy at national and international level.
To educate children, it is
essential to educate adults, not only (illiterate, poor) parents and
caregivers (including teachers) but adults in general. Because it is adults
and the adult society who make the critical decisions that affect children’s
well-being and development, at home, at school.... This is the importance of
educating adults, for their own sake and for the sake of children, for the
present and for future generations.
In fact,
the children’s right to
education should include the right to educated parents."

These three women exemplify the efforts of thousand of literacy workers
around the world, both in the hardships they have endured in adult literacy
education and the emphasis they have made on the literacy education of women
and families. It was a privilege for me to have had the opportunity to work
with all three of these outstanding women to further the cause of adult
literacy education. I am honored to know them and to recognize their work
this International Women's Day.

Thomas G. Sticht
International Consultant in Adult Education
2062 Valley View Blvd.
El Cajon, CA 92019-2059
Tel/fax: (619) 444-9133
Email: tsticht at aznet.net