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Promoting Women’s Rights: One Adult Learning Educator’s Training Experience

25 October 2023 | Imelda Kyaringabira, Principal Literacy Officer/National Coordinator, Integrated Community Learning for Wealth Creation (ICOLEW) programme, GRALE focal person, Uganda | The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) ALE

Picture1 IILA Emelda

Adult Learning and Education (ALE) is a fundamental human right. ALE is crucial to strengthen women’s dignity, equity and equality and increase women’s participation in public affairs, which gives rise to economic and socio-cultural development. ALE is key in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education and Goal 5 on gender equality. Uganda recognizes education and literacy as important aspects of human capital development for socio-economic transformation. The Government’s commitment to support all forms of education is provided for under Article 30 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. The article guarantees all persons the right to education, including women and girls of all ages, social status, and religions. Despite the gains made in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, Ugandan women continue to have a lower social status than men. This means that women have less power to make decisions, access equal opportunities for education, or obtain a profitable job and become independent.

Ugandan women do not have equal rights, particularly when it comes to areas such as land ownership and marriage. This can mainly be attributed to cultural factors. Like all countries around the world, Uganda is faced with a number challenges. These include climate change, the cost-of-living crisis, the COVID -19 pandemic (and its aftermath), and a high influx of refugees as a result of conflict in the region, among others. In the face of these challenges, it is essential to focus attention on improving education and economic empowerment. It is also essential to mainstream gender in all development interventions, and to prevent and mitigate the negative impacts of Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Women make up 52% of the Ugandan population. The literacy rate among women is 68%, compared the higher rate of 77.7% among men. The IALLA training was an opportunity given to me at the right time. The main purpose of the training was to build the capacity of ALE leaders and activists from all over the world to broaden their knowledge and understanding of ALE, as well as developing participants’ competences in ALE advocacy. In addition, the programme aimed to facilitate the exchange of experiences, collaborative learning, and networking among participants..

My participation in ICAE’s 10th IALLA training challenged and opened my understanding of the need to advocate for women’s rights and ALE. The training empowered me with different methods and techniques to be used during programme design and implementation, the development of teaching and learning materials and training of trainers and educators in order for them to address women’s issues as a special category of ALE. I was able to learn about the feminist movement and adult education; the global education policy framework for women’s education; feminist epistemology and educational discourses; women’s participation and equality of access in adult education and literacy; gender mainstreaming policy and advocacy for women’s learning and education; didactics and gender sensitive teaching and last but not least, education for empowerment: women and lifelong learning.

Through this training I was able to learn, appreciate and use new methods of training such as embodied learning and art-based methods in teaching adults, including storytelling, drawing, dancing, acting, games, educational tours, and using video, among others. As a trainer, I have already used some of these methods (e.g., embodied learning, in which trainees engage in learning activities that engage them holistically while promoting the connection of mind and body - thoughts, emotions, and feelings - in the learning session). Hopefully, the participants in the training will take this learning into their various teaching and learning environments to enrich their ALE experiences.

Additionally, I was able to learn about the ethics of ALE and lifelong learning, and appreciate what knowledgemeans for adults, especially women. Most of the learners in ICOLEW (Integrated Community Learning for Wealth Creation) groups in Uganda, especially women, acquire knowledge, skills, and attitudes to improve their quality of life. Therefore, the learning is emancipatory and empowering for them and helps them to become active citizens in their communities. The knowledge and skills I have acquired from this training will help me to carry out my day-to-day work of formulating policies and guidelines, curriculum development and teaching and instructional methods.

It is critical to design public spaces for all which address accessibility, inclusion, and gender. It is essential to understand women’s needs, set clear learning objectives for women, and create opportunities for them to reflect on what they learn vis-a vis their challenges. For instance, the vegetable garden can be promoted as a learning space in Uganda. Since most of the women (77%, ODI 2021) in Uganda are engaged in the agriculture sector, this approach has a potential to overcome the reproductive gender barriers that prevent women from enrolling in adult education programmes, while at the same time contributing to women’s socio-economic empowerment.

During the training, I learned about a Romanian program for migrant workers which resonates with the Ugandan situation. Currently, a lot of Ugandan women travel to Arab countries for work. Many are employed in domestic labour. They lack financial literacy and business knowledge to wisely use and invest the money that they earn and manage businesses. As a result, many of them do not take full advantage of the money they earn. At the end of their contracts, they end up losing their savings and earnings. With basic financial literacy and business skills, which can be acquired through ALE, they could avoid this loss of their hard-earned income.

As an ALE practitioner, my key take aways from the training are as follows:

• Uganda needs to offer more opportunities to women to participate in ALE by opening more learning spaces, such as through digital platforms to reach more potential learners;

• Migrant workers should be prioritised in the current context (e.g., women working as housemaids and others immigrating from other countries);

• Special attention should continue to be given to female adolescents and youths that dropped out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath;

• Provide learning spaces in the gardens where many women are working.

• As a country, there is a need for coordinated service delivery, establishment of Community Learning Centres countrywide, increased investment in ALE, human resources and expertise to develop and advance the growth of the ALE sector for the socio-economic transformation of the country and realization of the 2040 vision.

With these approaches and innovations, I believe that more women will attain functional literacy skills and sustainable livelihoods will be strengthened in Uganda.

Appreciation goes to ICAE for organizing the 10th IALLA training for leaders and activists, and the Arab House for Adult Education and Development (AHAED), ICAE’s member and partner, for co-organizing the training and providing financial support. Special gratitude goes to the German Adult Education Association (DVV International), East /Horn of Africa Regional office and the Country Office for providing financial support towards my participation. I hope that ALE experts continue to participate in these international events to further networking, collaborative learning, and to exchange experiences.