APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
READ Global combines education, enterprise, and community development to empower people living in rural communities to thrive and prosper. READ works by partnering with rural villages in Bhutan, India, and Nepal to build READ Community Knowledge Centers or 'READ Centers' equipped with a variety of educational resources, including a library with thousands of titles for both children and adults, a computer center with access to the internet, where available, and an A/V center with multimedia educational resources. Each READ Center is paired with a for-profit enterprise or a 'sustainability project' that is seeded by READ and then operated by the community. In addition to creating local employment, the profits from the enterprise help cover the operating expenses of the READ Center over the long run. READ serves as a connector, inviting other NGOs into the centers so they can provide critical programming for the community. For nearly two decades, READ Centers have provided rural villagers with educational resources and have served as hubs for life-changing, community-based activities.
Through its Women's Empowerment Centers Initiative, READ will work with its NGO partners to provide several types of programming and training at READ Centers based on the needs of each community, as determined by a baseline survey. READ will utilize a 'training of trainers' approach to equip a group of women in each community with the skills and materials that will allow them to provide training to hundreds of additional women in their own communities. Through this approach, READ will bring valuable information to thousands of women, and hundreds of women 'master trainers' will earn additional income while becoming true leaders in their communities.
The trainings will cover the following topics:
Access to legal knowledge:
Access to legal education
Information on local laws and rights of indigenous peoples
Training on ICT to access legal information via the web
Health services and education:
Each center will have reading materials on health matters, with a focus on women and children.
Each center will have a room that can be used for health matters, especially doctor visits, as rural villagers have infrequent access to trained physicians.
Partnerships will exist with local health clinics and other NGOs to provide seminars and workshops on health topics for women, children and men, including prevention of trafficking, HIV/AIDs, reproductive health, early childhood development, and malnutrition.
Formation of community reading groups will allow women and girls to teach each other to read.
Courses will provide literacy training for women and girls and help with retention of literacy skills.
Larger reading groups will be conducted via web chats and email with other READ communities.
Training will be provided on ICT for accessing literacy-enhancing websites.
Training courses that are relevant in the communities, including sewing centers, gooseberry processing, and mushroom farming will be developed.
Microfinance training and creation of savings cooperatives will be developed where appropriate.
Computer and Internet training will take place in all centers.
Programs will be offered on the use of mobile phones to access information.
Community radio will be used to deliver information about training programs, health matters, legal issues, as well as serve as a tool in literacy development and provide income through advertisements.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
We will plan to build all 20 of the Community Knowledge Center's containing Women's Empowerment Centers within the first two years. Each of these new Community Knowledge Centers will have a women's empowerment room as part of its design and architecture. The room will have a small library of its own with books, magazines, and pamphlets of specific interest to women on matters of health, education, empowerment issues, and legal issues. This room will also be used by visiting doctors, nurses, and midwives to perform physical examinations and to hold private conversations with patients.
Sustainability Project, a for-profit enterprise:
Projects will be created, when possible, with the intent to utilize the skills of the women of the local community so that their efforts will generate personal income as well as provide sustaining revenues for the Community Knowledge Center. For example, READ has already set up sewing centers in India that have trained local woman to produce a variety of products, including clothing and conference bags, that will be sold locally. In addition to earning an income, the women will be taught how to save and may create cooperatives in order to earn money on their savings and to loan money to other members of the cooperative.
Months One-Six during the first year after the center is finished:
Literacy and post-literacy classes will be offered to develop basic levels of literacy.
Months Six-Twelve during the first year after the center is finished:
Literacy classes will continue to advanced levels to enable women to read and understand more of the language. Based on that learning, new computer and internet skills classes will be given to provide online and interactive media tools to women to help them improve their literacy skills and get access to publications and information of need. This will continue to reinforce the literacy classes, provide women with much needed ICT skills, and provide tools to help in searches for information on any number of topics.
READ country staff and consultants from our partner NGOs will work with each Community Knowledge Center to provide lectures, workshops, and seminars in relevant areas of law, including right to education and land rights, education, health, including HIV/AIDS and reproductive health, trafficking, and economic development. In addition to providing new skills for economic development and empowerment, these programs will help produce women leaders in the community and provide examples for children.
READ will develop exchange programs to bring together the women from the different centers for comparisons and information exchanges. This will help to solidify the activities the women are undertaking, as well as cross-fertilize the minds of women in different villages and regions of the country.
In the developing countries of Bhutan, India, and Nepal where READ works, women and girls are unfortunately often deprived of the same rights and opportunities as men, particularly in rural areas. If an impoverished family can afford to send any children to school, they almost always send their sons. Those girls who are lucky enough to start their education are often pulled out of school at an early age to work in the fields, take care of younger siblings, or get married. The result is that many women in rural communities have received very little formal education and have staggeringly high illiteracy rates. This makes it difficult for them to find employment outside the home or to gain access to even basic health information, such as how to treat diarrhea, an easily treated condition that can result in death if left untreated, or how to protect oneself against infection with HIV/AIDS. Children born to illiterate, uneducated mothers are at greater risk for malnutrition, disease, and poverty. Providing rural women and adolescent girls with access to educational resources and valuable training will allow them to gain a livelihood and make better choices for their families.
Through its Women's Empowerment Centers Initiative, READ Global will provide the resources, education, and training to empower women in rural communities to build a better future for themselves and their families. READ Community Knowledge Centers contain well-stocked libraries, computer centers, and other educational resources that are otherwise not available in rural communities. Each READ Center is owned by the local community and women are actively involved in managing the centers. Women also help to run the for-profit enterprises that help to sustain the operations of the centers. By bringing together education, community development, and enterprise, READ Community Knowledge Centers become 'hubs' for important community activities and conversations.
For women who have been marginalized by society, it is important for them to feel that they have a special place that is only for them; a place where they can gather with other women, discuss the common issues they face, and support each other as they bravely take the steps that are necessary to build a better life for themselves and their families. The Women's Empowerment Centers within READ Community Knowledge Centers will be exactly this kind of place.