Skip to content

The Home of Africa’s Adult Education Community

Back to magazine

Adult Education A Lifeline for Refugee Women in Uganda

25 March 2024 | Joan Rachael Apio | Finnish Refugee Council Benefits of ALE In Africa


Martha Aling Conducting a FAL Class in Nyumanzi

Gender inequality remains a persistent problem in many patriarchal societies around the world. However, education is a powerful tool to combat these deeply ingrained norms. By focusing on improving literacy, numeracy skills, and vocational training, we can transform the status of women and promote gender equality. When conflicts arise, women and girls tend to be disproportionately affected and forced migration often leads to further marginalization.

In Africa, many female refugees come from communities that are deeply patriarchal and promote gender inequality. Education can be an effective solution to challenge these beliefs and promote gender equality. The Finnish Refugee Council (FRC) recognizes the importance of supporting all women who face barriers to education due to cultural beliefs and discriminatory practices.

“I always wanted to learn how to read and write,” (Twishimire Aline)

Many refugee women like Aline, come to Uganda when they are already illiterate which makes them more vulnerable. And when they join FRC’s literacy program they share about their dreams and ambitions which they have failed to achieve because of a lack of education. They dream of going to school and being able to read and write, having jobs and being able to support their families, and helping their children with their homework. Using literacy, FRC has been able to positively influence the lives of women and encourage them to achieve their dreams and hopes to become more self-reliant. Here are some stories of women whose lives were transformed because of adult literacy.

Women’s Lives Transformed Because of Education

Adyee Hellen a refugee from South Sudan residing in Palabek Refugee settlement, in Northern Uganda shares how becoming literate, helped her discover that she had leadership potential. In her community, women are not expected to be leaders, their role is to get married, have children and take care of the home. And because of the culture, many of the women are shy and fear to speak in public, it is only men who speak freely.

“I was shy and afraid to speak in public, but during the classes, the trainer would encourage us to speak up. He told us it was okay if we made mistakes, it’s the only way to learn. He also helped me see that I had the potential to be a leader in my community.”

With this confidence in herself, she was able to compete for a leadership position in her community.

“My opponents were two men, but I didn’t let that discourage me and thankfully I defeated them to become the leader in my community.”

She says that her confidence in public speaking was built because of being part of the literacy program.

“I am no longer afraid to speak in front of many people now.”

Twishimire Aline a refugee from Burundi and currently residing in Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Western Uganda, shared that she used to be picked on by the community because of her inability to read and write and this would make her feel bad. She was unable to help her children with their work or understand road signs. But all of this changed when she joined FRC’s Functional Adult Literacy program (FAL).

“I used to be mocked in the community because I did not know how to read and write. However, when the same people learnt that I had enrolled for the FRC classes they stopped disturbing me and now respect me for my decision.”

Additionally, because of being literate, she now helps community members who are still illiterate, including her husband. She says she helps him read text messages on his phone and save people’s contacts. Community members come to her to help them read their letters and write replies to the letters received, and she helps people interpret what’s written in the newspapers in the community.

Martha Aling a South Sudanese refugee living in Nyumazi refugee settlement in Northern Uganda, went from being a learner to being an instructor in FRC.

“In the beginning my husband was against me joining FRC, he used to even come with me to class to see what we were doing.”

In Aling’s community, women are expected to ask their husbands for permission to do anything. Her husband eventually allowed her to attend the classes, and in 2017 she graduated. In 2018, she applied to become an instructor with FRC’s FAL program and was successfully accepted. She tells how her going to school changed the standard of living in her home. She now contributes towards the well-being of her family and provides medication for her diabetic child.

It has been said, that “if you educate a woman, you educate a nation” (Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey, 1875-1927). Statements like this and stories of women who are changing their communities and families show the importance of using education as a tool for inclusion and gender equality. By prioritizing education, communities can address the root causes of gender inequality and create a more inclusive and sustainable future for everyone.

To read more about our work in Uganda visit