Literacy in India improves conditions for women and exposes many to the Gospel

By September 28, 2009

India (MNN) — Global literacy experts believe 70 percent of
the population in India is functionally illiterate, according to Grand Rapids,
Michigan-based Mission India.

Because of this huge need, Mission India has developed
year-long adult literacy classes all throughout India. These classes are
starting up again this fall.

Dave Stravers with Mission India said this program is
incredibly effective.

"The year-long adult
literacy program actually is so effective because it brings people from zero to
fifth grade reading level in just one year. And it does this with adults who
have been living their whole lives without the ability to read and write or
even add and subtract," Stravers said.

The high illiteracy rate in India has contributed to the
poverty, as well as the mistreatment of women. Over 200 million women across
the country are illiterate. Since women are viewed as second-class citizens in
India, often times their parents feel it is a waste of time to educate them and
view them as only good for working and having kids.

Also, as second-class citizens, women are often abused as
they travel to work, and Stravers said the problem is so wide-spread the police
cannot do much about it.

However, Stravers said when women get a chance to attend
these classes, their confidence and self-esteem improve, and good things happen
to their families and themselves.

A specific example of this is a teenage mother of two, who
had been married when she was 13-years-old. Before attending classes, she worked
alongside her husband in the fields, making less than a dollar a day.

"When a literacy class came to her village, she was
encouraged to join. She was very shy and non-responsive at first," Stravers
said. "But as she realized that she was able to read, her life was just
transformed by this. She just blossomed. She ended up helping other students
with their lessons [and] encouraging others to learn, to join the class … and
she came to know Jesus."

Soon her whole family was involved in the local church.
Stravers said her life went from darkness and despair to "a shining example."

This woman heard of Christ and His love through the
literature curriculum, which includes the message of Christ and the hope He

"This seems to be the normal pattern," Stravers said as he
shared this woman's story.

In fact, as Mission India holds their literacy classes in
villages throughout India and shares Christ through the curriculum, communities
are transformed.

"When we look at the communities in India that have
the higher percentage of Christian adherence, we find that the plight of women
is much, much improved," Stravers said.

While they do face opposition, especially from tribal
leaders and uncertain husbands, communities and families soon realize how
beneficial the program is.

Stravers said there have even been times when Hindu village
leaders came to the defense of the Christians teaching the classes because they
knew how important the classes where and what a positive influence they had.

As Mission India begins a new round of class, Stravers asked
for prayer in several areas.

"The biggest prayer need is for encouragement for the
learners who are learning to read and improve their lives. Many of them–about a third of them–come to know Christ. [Pray] that they will have the
courage to stand up for their new-found faith," Stravers said.

Also, pray for opposition to remain low. Stravers said, "We
need to pray that the doors will stay open [and] the Christian witness will
stay strong."

To learn more about Mission India's literacy program and how
you can get involved, visit their Web site.

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