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Voices of rural women in Nepal: Impact of literacy on the lives of women

Keshab Deep Thapaliya, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The study explores the complexity of female literacy from the live experiences of women. The purpose of this qualitative research is to describe rural women's perceptions about literacy to assess how it impacts their lives. Female literacy is exceptionally low in Nepal. In spite of the efforts to raise women's educational status through literacy programs, women have rarely benefited from them. Most literacy programs are top-down, short-term, often organized by outside literacy providers, usually males. These programs are resource intensive, keeping their services from reaching a multitude of illiterates. In addition, the teaching methods, materials and program strategies used in most adult literacy programs hardly reflect, in particular, the interest, needs and concerns of women. Since there are few studies describing women's perceptions about literacy, we have little understanding of the complexity of female literacy. What did literacy mean to rural women? What did the women perceive as benefits from literacy? What types of literacy programs are beneficial to them? The study sheds light on these fundamental questions. Using the participants' observation, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, this study collected qualitative data from 150 hours of observation, 15 individual in-depths interviews and six focus group discussions with 48 rural women. The data was collected from twelve sites across the country over a period of two years. The study indicates that rural women need literacy skills for fulfilling their needs as expressed in social, cultural and economic practices. The need for literacy to actively participate in economic activities was, however, felt strongly by most of the rural women. Changes in women's lives were indicated by their increased knowledge, positive attitude and new behavior. Rural women's abilities to articulate their concerns, participate in decision-making, and to organize themselves for collective actions were some of the examples that entailed a change in their lives. Even for those who did not become fully literate, these experiences were empowering. The study also indicates that rural women benefited from literacy programs that focused on both functional and liberating elements.

Subject Area

School administration|Adult education|Continuing education|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Thapaliya, Keshab Deep, "Voices of rural women in Nepal: Impact of literacy on the lives of women" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3215755.