Adult literacy education, gender equity and empowerment: Insights from a Freirean-inspired literacy programme

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Abstract

Based on ethnographic research in rural El Salvador and drawing on New Literacy Studies (NLS) and gender and development (GAD) literature, this article examines how participation in a Freirean-inspired literacy programme fostered and/or limited women's and men's personal, interpersonal and collective empowerment. The findings reveal that participation planted seeds of agency and generated numerous psychosocial benefits such as enhanced self-esteem and expansion of social networks, yet it did not lead to collective empowerment or increased gender equity. This suggests that literacy education is a necessary yet insufficient basis for ameliorating entrenched social and gender hierarchies. Nevertheless, the psycho-social benefits identified by learners enhanced their human capabilities, corresponded to needs rooted in the social context (e.g. postwar social fragmentation) and helped lay a foundation for future collective action. Additionally, the article attributes the programme's limited influence on women's and men's collective empowerment to both programmatic and contextual factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-39
Number of pages16
JournalStudies in the Education of Adults
Volume40
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

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