“As I would board the bus, I would ask the driver shyly whether the bus was headed in the direction I needed to go. Now, I can read the bus route. I can go wherever I want without asking anyone.”- Emine S.
“I couldn’t go to the hospital alone before. Since I couldn’t read, I couldn’t find the department I needed to go to. I was afraid to ask. I would spend so much time looking. Now I can find the hospital departments without asking anyone. I can read the door plates.”-Hamiyet K.
“My greatest wish was to learn phone numbers. When somebody gave me their number I couldn’t write it and I felt miserable. Yesterday I got a phone call. They wanted to talk to my husband. I said he wasn't home and wrote their phone number. I am so happy.” -Muteber B.
As surprising as it may seem, Emine, Hamiyet and Muteber live in Turkey’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, Istanbul. Until they enrolled in the Mother and Child Education Foundation (ACEV)’s Women Empowerment and Functional Literacy Program (FALP), they could not read.
These women are not alone. There are several thousands of women, of all ages, who like Emine migrated to Istanbul, but who are unable to integrate into city life because of illiteracy. Illiteracy does not just mean the inability to read or write. It is a situation that prevents, mainly women, from living a normal life. For the past year, FALP has helped to change that in three disadvantaged districts in Istanbul.
From October 2009, FALP has implemented a literacy program for women in their 30s and 40s in Eyup, Fatih and Kagithane, where there is a high percentage of migrants from southeastern and eastern Turkey. The majority are migrants with only a primary school education for the men and only a few years for the women. In most instances women from these parts of Turkey never even enrolled in a classroom.
With the assistance of three volunteer teachers selected by ACEV’s Functional Literacy Program, 65 women from these Istanbul districts developed basic primary school level reading skills in three months.
FALP aims “for participants to gain skills that would boost women’s status in society and the family, such as using literacy skills in daily life, benefiting form the right to lifelong education as an informed citizen, and understanding the importance of educating female children.” Raising literacy rates in Turkey is one step in the right direction.
As a result of ACEV’s literacy program, there are several dozens of women in Istanbul more confident and able to function independently in their daily lives. Pleased with its results, ACEV plans to offer more advanced courses for these women. It also plans to expand the program to other districts in Istanbul.
ACEV's FALP program is a recent grantee of TPF. Read more on the outcomes of the project here.