ProLiteracy has just concluded a health literacy pilot project focused on women’s health issues in partnership with Solidarity for the Development of Widows and Orphans to Promote Self-Sufficiency and Livelihoods (SEVOTA), an organization that helps genocide survivors and victims of violence regain their strength and rebuild their lives.
This project was part of a three-year initiative funded by the West Foundation to integrate health education into basic literacy instruction to address the unique needs and strengths of women in under-developed communities in Liberia, South Africa, and Rwanda. ProLiteracy provided capacity building for our partners in these three countries to help them develop instructional content that teaches literacy within the context of local needs, resources, and culture. Together, we reached approximately 1,100 women in more than 20 impoverished communities who have been bypassed by education or denied access to health services.
“The goal of literacy training for women is to equip them with the skills they need to exercise and realize their rights and take charge of their destiny.”
—Mukasarasi Godelieve,founder of SEVOTA
Mukasarasi Godelieve, founder of SEVOTA and 2011 Winner of the Human Rights International Award, is a survivor of the 1994 genocide and has gone on to make invaluable contributions to the promotion of human rights and democratic development in Rwanda.
In the April 1994 genocide, 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were brutally massacred due to ethnic tension associated with the traditionally unequal relationship between the dominant Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority. This left Rwanda with many widows, orphans, traumatized rape victims, and families and communities torn apart.
SEVOTA brings together over 80 associations with 2,000 members working in local administrative units and reception centers for genocide survivors and victims of violence and other traumas. To help them regain their strength and rebuild their lives, SEVOTA worked toward the creation of safe spaces for dialogue so that women, both Tutsi and Hutu, could talk about their pain and work toward reconciliation.
Today, an estimated 34% of the country is composed of households headed by women, who are often poor, widows, and illiterate. UNESCO estimates Rwanda’s literacy rate at 71.2%, with roughly 72% for males and 65% for females (2012 est.). This is the population that our partner SEVOTA works with and for.
Training offered to women about the Health Manual content (Ngororero District)
Since the health literacy pilot concluded, SEVOTA was able to design and write a health manual as an educational resource to inform a group of 335 low literate women from rural areas in Rwanda. The manual, written in Kinyarwanda, is 80 pages long and divided into 12 units. It incorporates core content that is relevant to both the local health issues women face and the overall strategies to improve health, hygiene, and nutrition. Content includes topics around emotional health and healing, as many participants were former genocide survivors.
The completion of the Rwandan Women’s Health Handbook allowed women to improve their knowledge about sensitive health topics, while incorporating specific content to expand the literacy work. It was observed that 60% of the women who participated in the Women’s Health Training Workshop improved their specific health knowledge.