Home | 2011 Workshop

Not Your Same Old Literacy Programs
August 18, 2009 – 3:30 p.m.

Presenter:Erica Tubbs, Pact/WORTH Program

Moderator:Jim Hoxeng, USAID Office of Education

This session discussed Pact’s WORTH program which combines a literacy program with loan groups for women in Asia and Africa. The main focus was on highlighting their successful work with women in Nepal. Despite the Nepalese program formally ending several years ago, a recent evaluation found many of the literacy and loan groups still running. This session was highly interactive, with the group being led in lending activities that demonstrated how these programs work and generate profit from their loans and interest rates for the women involved in the program.

The session began by discussing the elusive concept of sustainability. The USAID-funded program began in Nepal in the late 1990s but was stopped after being chased out by the Maoists. However, Pact was persistent and in 2007 hired a local Nepali team to do a follow-up on the women in the program, revealing the heartening result that the program had continued functioning without aid in their literacy program and loan groups. Furthermore, they had passed on the materials to others and new groups had been formed.

The program is based on a simple concept: groups are self-led. They are guided by literacy volunteers. The leaders are not teachers, they are facilitators. The women teach themselves.
Cohesion and clear vision in the groups are integral to the success of the programs. Most groups had very strict rules, like fees for being late or for misbehavior. Examples of why loan groups were unsuccessful included character problems, leadership problems, and migration.

The program established a micro-finance lending group of 20-25 women that saved weekly and repaid loans weekly. After being approved by the group, loans were given out to its members. Many groups set up programs that mostly limited loans to income generating activities but they may also have a social fund for non-generating income needs such as uniforms. The interest rates were usually set at around 2% per month (24% annually). It was recognized in the beginning that this was not a social group, but a business transaction and must be conducted in a professional manner. However, in addition to the financial benefits, other social impacts have been noted by the women. For example, contrary to the idea of backlash against women gaining economic independence, women self-reported a decrease in domestic violence in their communities.

The key take away point in this session can be summarized through the four key assumptions set in Pact’s WORTH program framework:
  1. Women can teach themselves how to read and write.
  2. If women have the right financial tools, they can become good borrowers and bankers.
  3. If women have the right business tools, they can become successful business leaders.
  4. If women have the right organizational and empowerment tools they can create social change.

To view the presentations, please click on link below:
PACT, Tubbs : Open

For questions related to the 2009 Education Workshop,
please contact Rebekah Levi at rlevi@jbsinternational.com