The Mothers’ Union Literacy and Development Programme in the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi started in June 2004 under the umbrella of Mothers’ Union. The programme is being implemented in all the seven districts that form the diocese and it works together with people from different faith groups, it does not discriminate the disabled and people living with HIV/AIDS. The programme’s area of great concern is mainly the less privileged, those who live below the poverty line. MULDP mostly targets women and girls because they make a large part of the illiterate people in Malawi. MULDP has 108 circles with 108 facilitators (82 female and 26 male). During the ten years of its existence, about 9,361 learners have graduated from the programme of which only 51 are males and 9,310 females. Those learners who have graduated still go to attend circles together with new learners being enrolled in the learning circles. Mrs Temwa Kalimbe is the programme’s Coordinator.
Mission and Vision
The programme’s mission is:’ to reach out to many vulnerable women and girls in society and empower them in all fields of potential so that they become self reliant and contribute positively to all development agenda’. The vision of the programme is: ‘Sustainable development and poverty reduction through advancement and promotion of the full participation of women in society.’
The MULDP uses Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) method of learning which allows learners to take part in discussing issues that affect them and their societies and put in place ways of addressing those issues during the learning process. Some of the topics that people discuss in their circles include cultural and gender issues, health and hygiene, businesses, agriculture and food security among other things. This helps learners to realise problems that they face and take action upon them. The learners are also able to connect with the right people to bring whatever development is lacking in their areas. PLA does not allow the use of books but rather enables learners to make more words on their own out of a word that they learn to read, write and finally break that word into syllables, identify the syllables forming that particular word and make more words from the syllables. The method helps the learners to think fast as they compete when making words. The words are also used as counters to help the learners practise simple arithmetic.
For effective learning at their ages, learners are not taught a e i o u as vowels, b c d etc as consonants but as men and women respectively and that syllables are families for example when miss k is married to Mr. a e i o u the families that come out are ka ke ki ko ku whereby their husbands name is heard (sound). This helps them to remember easily because they are very familiar with families. Most of the learners become literate after 18 months of learning.
Programme implementation
The literacy coordinator works with volunteer facilitators to deliver the programme’s activities. The facilitators are selected by the beneficiary communities and are responsible for helping the learners to become literate and numerate. They also initiate and sustain learners’ engagement in development activities. The learners are mostly women with a few men. The programme is designed to ensure openness and transparency, and not present a threat to men in communities. It aims at having at least 70% women in attendance in each literacy circle. The programme targets the most marginalized, the least educated and in that sense, has an in-built poverty focus.
The learners who attain basic literacy and numeracy are issued a MULDP Certificate of Accreditation. Learners become literate in about 18 months due to holidays during farming seasons especially January- March. Free discussions are carried out and a word is picked and broken in syllables. The learners end up making more words out of that particular word. They also do numeracy using the words they come up with as counters.

There are several achievements that trainers, facilitators, learners and societies at large have noticed from the programme. These include the following:

  • Learners are able to read, write and numerate in our local language. Most learners can read the Bible as that was what most of them were longing to read and this in turn has helped to increased enrolment of children in primary schools because the children are being inspired by their parents
  • The learners are having clean homes as a result of what they learn in their literacy circles. Most are earners able to know the weight of their babies at the under-five clinics
  • The learners are able to keep enough food in their homes unlike in the past whereby they could sell everything without keeping enough food for their families because they could not estimate how much their families needed.
  • Women participation in decision making both in families as well as in societies has gone high as they can take/accept responsibilities in committees such as village development, school management and church management committees, just to mention a few
  • The programme encourages participation of people of different religious backgrounds, ethnic groups, skin colours and it does not discriminate people with disabilities and people living with HIV/AIDS.

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