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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science