“Now I know how to read, and I can write about my village and my family,” says Mariyamma with a half-smile and a twinkle in her eyes that reveals the pride she feels while saying those words out loud. Since August 2019, Mariyamma and other women from 8 villages in the Adoni region have participated in a pilot literacy project for adults, especially women.
This project is part of the activities carried out within the Rural Development Trust (RDT) Mobile Libraries program that travels through various villages in the Kurnool district.
“Reading the newspaper allows me to know what is happening in the world,” explains Mariyamma while illustrating how essential women’s education is to face the inequalities they suffer day after day. “If women know how to write and read, we no longer have to depend on anyone. We are self-sufficient,” she says with strength. Sudha, who has also been attending adult literacy classes for a year now, firmly agrees, adding that “educating women is the first step towards their independence.” All of them are clear; since classes have started, they feel more confident. They are no longer afraid of anything. Now, they are capable of everything.
“I, like many others, never had the opportunity to go to school,” explains Mariyamma. At the age of 7, she started working in the fields. Since then, picking cotton and rooting out weeds has become her only option to earn a daily wage. “I remember that every day when I was seeing other boys and girls from my town going to school, I begged my father to let me go,” she recollects. Sudha and three of her sisters also did not receive any academic education; the family did not have enough financial resources. And like them, thousands. According to the latest data published in the Census of India (2011), Kurnool is the second district in Andhra Pradesh with the highest illiteracy figures – more than 40% of the general population. The female literacy is of 50%.
“When RDT came to our town and offered us the possibility to study I felt excited. I thought that the opportunity I never had before, has finally arrived,” explains Mariyamma. RDT’s pilot literacy project for adults aims to teach reading and writing through the Montessori Method, two actions that become a transforming agent for women themselves, as well as for their families and the community as a whole. Access to education brings with it the inclusion and active participation in the country’s social, political, and cultural life to all its citizens. “Before, taking the bus or going to the market and making sure that the change was correct frightened me. Now, I am no longer afraid, I go wherever I want, and I don’t depend on anyone”, says Mariyamma.
“It was difficult, a great challenge, but I was so eager to learn that it did not discourage me. Since I was little, I dreamed of being able to read, and I was willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it,” Mariyamma confides with conviction. The entire family supported her in the process, especially her eldest daughter. “It makes me happy that my 7-year-old daughter encourages and helps me read. At her age, I started working in the fields, but now she can go to school and have a good education”, she confesses.
Mariyamma and her eldest daughter, Meghana, read together every night. They complement each other: Mariyamma, 26 years old, imparts to her first daughter, from her experience, the importance of having the education to be able to imagine a different future than the one she had. And Meghana, from her innocence, suggests to her mother with great conviction to read stories every day, to keep learning and improving. Each one offers what they have, and together they walk the path to literacy: a journey of opportunities.
“To all women who have the possibility of studying, I would say that age does not matter, that it is never too late,” acclaims Mariyamma. “I have never felt better. Now I’m not afraid of anything,” adds Sudha. And Bujjamma, librarian and person in charge of the literacy sessions in the village of Yerigeri, wrapped in the latent emotion that permeates the room, adds that “she is proud to be able to offer the tools that all women need to feel more courageous.” All the women heartily thank her for the doors and windows that have been opened to them through her classes.