Story of Alemtsehay, Ethiopia

At what age did you learn to read and write?

Now, I am a 42 year old woman. I started to read and write properly two years ago at the age of 40, when I joined the Integrated Women’s Empowerment Programme (IWEP). While I was a young girl working as a housemaid for different families, I made several attempts to get an education. None of them were successful because I was not attending continuously.

Why did you not learn as a child?

I was born in the countryside where there were no schools nearby. Besides the education of girls was not given that much attention. I was married when I was 12 and my husband brought me to Addis Ababa. I found out he drank and was polygamous. I escaped from him and started working as a housemaid in different houses. As a young girl, I tried several times to get educated. I was unsuccessful because of the nature of my work. After some time, I got married again. My husband was a member of the military. I gave birth to my daughter and I became a housewife, taking care of my daughter.

What was the most difficult thing about learning as an adult?

Learning as an adult has lots of challenges. I often forget what I learnt yesterday or before yesterday. The facilitator has to repeat things several times. Besides, I had a health problem, my hand was broken and it was difficult for me to write letters correctly.

Why did you want to learn?

I am an active participant in local social settings like idir’ ‘iqub’ (local social groups/clubs), etc. There I realised my limitations as an illiterate. Because of my communication skills and active participation in the local social settings, including in the women’s association, I was given the chance to participate in the IWEP program. I am a leader of my group.

I was very eager and interested to join the literacy programme. I took it seriously and was never absent from class. As a result I am now able to read as much as I can and write and take note of important events.

What has it meant for you? How has your life changed?

Sure, I have seen a lot of change in my life. I can use my mobile phone for my purposes. I can call and also save important numbers in a way I can remember. I also started to learn the English alphabet by myself. When our group treasurers are away, I make records of our group’s incomegenerating activities, I also record savings.

My literacy skills added to my social value. Because I can read and write, I am able to participate actively in women’s affairs. I have received many awards for my active participation and contributions in the women’s’ associations too.

What would you like to say to other adults who cannot read and write?

No matter the circumstances, adults, especially women, should learn. When you can read and write, you will not be cheated. When you become literate, you will have better chances in life and live a better life. You can be an active participant in your social life and you can get promoted.