99% of the women with whom we work in the Indian villages are illiterate. from a very young age they have learnt to cook, do housework as well as work in the fields with no opportunity to go to school or even learn to write their name.
They get up very early to do the housework before going to the fields since a husband’s work alone is not sufficient to provide food for a family. they have also to walk long distances to collect firewood for cooking and this is slow, often about 3 hours. At the same time they have to look after their children when they are little more than children themselves.
If there is work for them in the fields, they take it to earn extra money to help buy lentils or fresh vegetables for a meal since most days they only have rice and potatoes. the women are exploited in the fields and only paid with rice, onions or potatoes, depending on the crop at the time. they only receive 4kg of rice for a fullday’s work n the blazing sun, or if they have to plant rice, standing in water for hours, easily exposed to sunstroke or skin infections. They keep their earnings for food but, if cash is needed for medicines, clothes, spices, green vegetables, etc…they have to sell these wages in kind. For 4Kg of rice they will only get 100 Rs in the market, or 1,3€, when the minimum wage for farm labourers is 4 €.
They are aware of the importance of education for their children. they themselves cannot study as they have to work and have no time. Now they are starting to realize that in order to open a bank account so they can ask for a loan, they must know how to write their name, a signature and not just a fingerprint. for any important documents this is essential and gives them certain dignity and respect; even for their children’s admission to a school, the papers must carry their signature.
For this reason, we held a writing workshop especially for the women in our Microcredit Programme. It took place in Nautapur village and 25 women attended to learn how to write their names. The courses last for 2 or 3 days depending on the number of women. Now they can at least place their signature on any document of importance without the need to use a thumbprint.