Taking the initiative: Local NGO strives for adult female literacy in Bahrain

IBT teaches several women to read and write in Torwali and Urdu.

Fazal Khaliq November 08, 2013
Nearly 2,000 women between the ages of 15-50 were taught to read and write in their native language Torwali and later in the national language Urdu. PHOTO: AFP


Over 2,000 women in Swat and Kohistan have benefited from an adult literacy project for women conducted by Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT), a local non-governmental organisation, since last year.

The initiative titled Swat-Kohistan Women Education Project was conceived, designed and implemented by IBT in three union councils of the Torwali (Kohistani) community in Swat and Kohistan, while USAID provided funding for it.

Meet the students

Nearly 2,000 women between the ages of 15-50 were taught to read and write in their native language Torwali and later in the national language Urdu.

The teaching was done in Women Education Centres through charts and textbooks provided by IBT and Oxford University Press.

“We can now speak Urdu with ease and even understand news on the radio and television,” Samfeena, one of the students told The Express Tribune.

“I can now read and understand headlines in Urdu newspapers; something I have longed for since childhood,” said Mrs Sadiq.

The initiators

An instructor at one of the Women Education Centres, Ms Noor Jehan said she was very excited to see textbooks in Torwali. “We were often told that our language had no books, however, all credit goes to IBT and its team for undertaking such hard work and making Torwali an accepted entity,” she added.

Project Manager Aftab Ahmed told The Express Tribune, “The initiative was not exclusively meant for literacy. A major aim was to change the behaviour of women regarding their home environment, child care, culture and health.”

According to IBT Executive Director Zubair Torwali, the activity was the first of its kind in Pakistan wherein a local endangered language was used as an efficient tool to educate women in Urdu and Math.

“Not only did the project educate women but it also popularised the Torwali script among them,” said Zubair. He added IBT developed the script itself because there was no writing tradition in Torwali earlier.

“Around 70 employees, mostly women were involved in the implementation of the project and all of them were from the Torwali community. Therefore, IBT provided attractive employment for educated women in the area which then positively affected the economic and health condition of their families,” shared Zubair.

He further elaborated that the course was designed by IBT in Torwali for the first few terms while during the last three terms books from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Textbook Board and Oxford University Press were used.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th,2013.


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