Taking literacy to market women has been one of the successful innovations of Alfalit Liberia. Two projects proved the effectiveness of teaching market women right at their market tables how to read, write and apply numbers. The Sirleaf Market Women’s Literacy Project and the Omega Market Women’s Literacy Project are the two separate literacy programs in the market for three years.
This innovation was first tested through concerted efforts from Development Education Network of Liberia (DEN-L and Alfalit Liberia, funded by Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund (SMWF). In 2009, five hundred (500) market women in six (6) counties benefited from the Sirleaf Market Women’s Literacy Project. It covered eleven (11) market sites; namely: Nancy B. Doe Market in Sinkor, ELWA Junction Market, Duala Market in Montserrado County, Grand Gedeh Central Market in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, Seclepea Market in Nimba County, Bopolu Market in Gbarpolu Conty, Totota Market in Bong and John’s Town Market in Lofa County.
The uniqueness of the joint implementation efforts from Alfalit and Den-L is the fact that these two organizations come from two different teaching methods. Alfalit uses the Frank Labach Way of Reading, best described as a progressive learning approach that drills adults through pictures and sounds that they may already know. In summary, adult learns to see and recognize the picture of a house. The new thing to learn is how to spell a house. On the other hand, Den-L specializes in what is known as REFLECT METHOD which dwells on a common discussion point of interest to learners. As the discussion progresses, key words associated with the discussion would be a learning highlight for adult learners. Both participatory teaching methods stimulate adult learners; therefore they were both successfully used to facilitate learning activities among market women at the eleven (11) market sites.
Another successful market women’s literacy project is the Omega Market Women’s Literacy Project solely implemented. The SEGAL Foundation funded project targeted congested Red Light Market in Paynesville, ready for relocation to the newly constructed Omega Market in the vicinity of the demolished US owned Omega communication towel. The project recruited more than one hundred fifty-five market women who needed to keep the value and commitment to their business, yet had time to acquire literacy skills to improve or safeguard their businesses. The project established three centers: Gogbarchop Market, Main Red Light Market and Cow Field Market for the purpose of keeping a smooth interaction between learners and facilitators.
Again these projects are at standstill basically due to funding crisis. Nevertheless, they both have impacted the lives of these market women who are using numbers and simple words to keep records of their businesses and transact with banking institutions; something they could not have done by themselves without these literacy interventions. Thanks to Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for her passion for market women’s empowerment initiative. The Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund, as a charity intervention for market women, had played significant role leading these market women to the light of literacy. This could only reinforce their vigor to the education of their children. The contributions of market women to the education of their children, some of whom have served Liberia with distinction, cannot be overlooked. Adding literacy skills to women in Liberia helps them not to only sponsor their children in school, but it also helps them to evaluate the performances of their children. Literacy skill is always advantageous to mothers who have a heart for the development of their children.
To make Liberia a highly literate society in a decade, the efforts of government, religious institutions and the society in general must identify means of individual and collective contributions to the cause. The government needs to prioritize literacy programs at all levels of society. Literacy opportunity at the disposal of market women, concessions and government employees will place Liberia among serious nations that value literacy as empowerment endeavor to all citizens.
Finally, reactivating market women’s literacy program and expanding literacy classes at the disposal of many Liberians are among heart-strain tasks of Alfalit to be embraced and supported by private and public sectors of Liberia. For market women’s education, Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund and SEGAL Foundation set the pace. We all can only join Alfalit to continue the initial efforts in moving forward. Market women’s literacy education is another milestone that Alfalit Liberia can proudly point to as part of its ten (10) years of literacy intervention across Liberia. Congratulations to Alfalit and all of its partners for empowering grassroots Liberians. Happy 10th Anniversary!