Violence and literacy are closely related. The current state of research suggests that violence, physical and cultural, often serves the primary obstacle to literacy in different population groups (Horsman, 2006). The ways in which violence affects literacy are numerous and varied. On the one hand, violence limits women’s access to literacy programs (Horsman, 2006).
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This is largely because injured women are denied and refused an opportunity to participate in such programs, because of their physical and emotional state (Horsman, 2006). On the other hand, women themselves perceive literacy courses as unnecessary and useless (Horsman, 2006).
Surprisingly or not, the link between violence and literacy resembles a two-way street. Simply stated, violence bears serious consequences on female literacy, whereas literacy, in its turn, has a potential to empower women and support them in their struggle against violence. Literacy has significant implications for reducing violence against women, and this paper explores the reasons behind and solutions to continued illiteracy in adult women.
That violence affects chances to enroll in literacy programs is a well-known fact. According to Horsman (2006), violence convinces women that they are stupid; as a result, they no longer want to attend literacy courses. What woman would want to attend literacy courses, knowing that any attempt to do so will inevitably lead to another episode of trauma and violence (Horsman, 2006)?
Violence against women, who plan to enroll in academic programs, is easy to explain: literacy is a powerful source of empowerment for victimized women. This is one of the reasons why violent spouses are extremely reluctant to let their women get an education. However, how can literacy be empowering?
Darville (1995) suggests that literacy gives way for releasing and exchanging human experiences. Literacy begins with the power of authorship, which transcends and reinforces the sense of self-competence through communication (Darville, 1995).
Literacy is empowering in that it creates a sense of inclusion and undercuts a belief that education belongs to others (Darville, 1995). Take a look at women in the Somebody’s Daughter program: they were hit by violence and suffered isolation, but the messages of encouragement support their female writers in coping with the difficulties in their lives (UNESCO, 2007).
Does that mean that literacy can effectively reduce violence? If it can, why does violence in all parts of the globe continue to persist? The reasons behind the failure of literacy to reduce violence and victimization are varied. Horsman (2006) writes that women do not enroll in education courses, fearing further violence and abuse. However, the real problem is not in that women have a fear of violence.
The problem is in that literacy programs for adults lack supportive elements, which could protect women from abuse. Collaboration and cooperation between literacy programs and social work professionals could improve women’s chances to become literate. Social workers could spread the message of adult literacy, its benefits, and its implications for female empowerment. Also, social workers could protect women from new acts of violence, if they plan to enroll in an educational program.
Darville (1995) is correct in that learners do not need to acquire the language and literacy of lawyers or bureaucrats, but they need literacy to deal with these bureaucrats and lawyers. Unfortunately, literacy opportunities for victimized adults will be increasingly limited, until literacy programs can communicate the broad message of learning, protect women from further violence, diversify the learning and education opportunities for victimized women, and empower them to cope with their life difficulties.
Darville, R. (1995). Literacy, experience, power. In A, Manicom and M. Campbell (eds), Knowledge, experience and ruling relations: Studies in the social organization of knowledge, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 249-261.
Horsman, J. (2006). Moving beyond ‘stupid’: Taking account of the impact of violence on women’s learning. International Journal of Educational Development, 26, 177-188.
UNESCO. (2007). The alphabet of hope. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000152985