Literacy and Women


  Female Literacy in India

According to last census held in 2001, the percentage of female literacy in the country is 54.16%.
The literacy rate in the country has increased from 18.33% in 1951 to 65.38% as per 2001 census. The female literacy rate has also increased from 8.86% in 1951 to 54.16%. It is noticed that the female literacy rate during the period 1991-2001 increased by 14.87% whereas male literacy rate rose by 11.72%. Hence the female literacy rate actually increased by 3.15% more compared to male literacy rate.

 

Factors Responsible for Poor Female Literacy Rate

Historically,a variety of factors have been found to be responsible for poor female literate rate,viz

  • Gender based inequality.
  • Social discrimination and economic exploitation.
  • Occupation of girl child in domestic chores.
  • Low enrolment of girls in schools.
  • Low retention rate and high dropout rate.

Strategies adopted by the Government for increasing Female Literacy in the Country

The main strategies adopted by the Government for increasing female literacy in the country include:

  • National Literacy Mission for imparting functional literacy
  • Universalisation for Elementary Education
  • Non-Formal Education

CONTRIBUTION OF LITERACY CAMPAIGNS TO FEMALE LITERACY

The provision of educational opportunities for women has been an important part of the national endeavor in the field of education since India's Independence. Though these endeavors did yield significant results, gender disparity persists with uncompromising tenacity, more so in the rural areas and among the disadvantaged communities. This is not only a matter of national anxiety and concern but also a matter of national conscience. It is with this concern that the Government of India launched the National Literacy Mission in 1988 for eradication of adult illiteracy. Since women account for an overwhelming percentage of the total number of illiterates, the National Literacy Mission is for all practical purposes a Mission of imparting functional literacy to women. Total literacy campaigns launched since 1988 under the aegis of the National emphasis on making efforts to: -

  • Create an environment where women demand knowledge and information, empowering themselves to change their lives.
  • Inculcate in women the confidence that change is possible, if women work collectively.
  • Spread the message that education of women is a pre-condition for fighting against their oppression.
  • Highlight the plight of the girl child and stress the need for Universalisation of elementary education as a way of addressing the issue.
Some of the significant ways in which the literacy campaigns have contributed to the promotion of female literacy and women’s empowerment are as follows:-

HEIGHTENED SOCIAL AWARENESS

Literacy campaigns have heightened social awareness among women regarding the importance of education, both for themselves as well as for their children. Large numbers of women have been participating whole-heartedly in the literacy campaigns as learners and volunteers. Because of the campaign mode and creation of a positive environment for literacy, women receive a social sanction to participate in the literacy programs. As women came out of their homes and take part in the campaigns with great enthusiasm, they acquire a heightened sense of self-awareness and desire to gain knowledge of host of women’s issues.

INCREASED SCHOOL ENROLMENT

The literacy campaigns have also motivated and encouraged women learners to educate their children, particularly girls by enrolling them in formal schools. An evaluation study of the literacy campaign ion Birbhum District shows that the biggest achievement of the adult literacy program in Birbhum has been its impact on girls’ education. The confidence of the girls, as they perform drill or play football, is the result of the awareness among neo-literate parents that girls need to be educated and outgoing. The need to provide equal opportunity to both girls and boys has also had effect of generating greater demand for the quantity to both girls and boys has also had effect of generating greater demand for the quantity and quality of primary schooling.

INCREASE IN SELF-CONFIDENCE AND PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT

The literacy classes conducted under literacy campaigns have given women as opportunity to break the isolation which is socially structured into their lives, giving them a chance to meet other women and learn collectively- rather than learn singly as individuals. The newly acquired literacy skills have enhanced their ability to solve family problems and learn new skills. Women are communicating how they have started feeling more confident, how their articulation has improved, how they have become more discerning and how they have learnt to function autonomously.

GENDER EQUITY AND WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT

Total literacy campaigns have provided illiterate adult women, who have been denied access to formal schooling, with a great opportunity for reading, writing, increasing awareness levels and skills training. Literacy campaigns have thus actively promoted gender equity and have sought to empower them as to decision making about themselves, their families and their communities. The impact of literacy on women’s life has often been dramatic. Experiences of Poddukuttai in Tamil Nadu (where women learnt how to bicycle and acquired ownership right in stone quarries) and Nellore in Andhra Pradesh (where a lesson in the literacy Primer inspired women to launch anti-arrack agitation that later engulfed the entire district and the state) have shown how women have been empowered at individual and collective levels as a result of their participation.

STATUS IN THE FAMILY

Literacy campaigns have played a significant role in improving the status of women within their won families. Whereas traditionally, women have little say in the family decision making, they, through participation in literacy programs, have begun to express their newly found self-belief in having say both within and without the family.

EDUCATIONAL EQUALITY

Another area in which women’s equality has shown a major improvement as a result of adult literacy programs is the area of enrolment of boys and girls in schools. As a result of higher participation of women in literacy campaigns, the gender gap in literacy levels is gradually getting reduced. Even more significant is the fact that disparity in enrolment of boys and girls in neo-literate households is much lowered compared to the non-literate householders.

WOMEN AS ENTREPRENEURS

Participation of women is literacy campaigns has opened several opportunities for neo-literate women to step out of the households and involve themselves in some enterprise or a new vocation. The Dumka campaign in Bihar has demonstrated how literacy campaign has helped women has demonstrated how literacy campaign has helped women to take charge of their lives. They have formed a group called “Joga Behna” (Awake sister), which tries to sensitize the women to the need of collective action against social ills. These women have also set up “Didi Bank” (Sister Bank) which promotes the habits of thrifts and savings. Here women have also learnt to maintain hand pump thereby breaking their dependence for repair on mechanics from outside the village.

HOUSEHOLD SAVINGS AND ACCESS TO CREDIT

In almost all the districts, the literacy campaigns have gone beyond the transaction of mere literacy skills and have served to enhance knowledge and skills for better management of expenditure and improving earning capacities. In several districts, the women participants in literacy campaigns have begun to set aside their earnings not only in regular banks but also in specially thrift societies. Such societies, as for example in Dumka are run by the women themselves.

HEALTH AND HYGIENE

Literacy campaigns in most districts have taken up health and hygiene issues as an integral component of adult education programs. Literacy campaigns have helped to spread knowledge about health care and nutrition, thereby enabling mothers to keep their family in better health and to care better for their children. Literacy campaigns have also disseminated information for creating awareness about problems of early marriage, spacing and small family norms.

STATE-WISE PERCENTAGE OF FEMALE LITERACY IN THE COUNTRY AS PER 2001 CENSUS

Sl.No. Name of the State Percentage of
Female Literacy
1. Andhra Pradesh 51.17
2.Arunachal Pradesh44.24
3.Assam56.03
4.Bihar33.57
5.Chattisgarh52.40
6.Delhi75.00
7.Goa75.51
8.Gujarat58.60
9.Haryana56.31
10.Himachal Pradesh68.08
11.Jammu & Kashmir41.82
12.Jharkhand39.38
13.Karnataka57.45
14.Kerala87.86
15.Madhya Pradesh50.28
16.Maharashtra67.51
17.Manipur59.70
18.Meghlaya60.41
19.Mizoram 86.13
20.Nagaland61.92
21.Orissa50.97
22.Punjab63.55
23.Rajasthan 44.34
24.Sikkim61.46
25.Tamil Nadu64.55
26.Tripura65.41
27.Uttaranchal60.26
28.Uttar Pradesh42.98
29.West Bengal60.22
Union Territories
1.Andaman & Nicobar Islands75.29
2.Chandigarh76.65
3.Dadra & Nagar Haveli42.99
4. Daman & Diu70.37
5.Lakshadweep81.56
6.Pondicherry74.16

All India

54.16

        Source: Census of India - 2001 Provisional Figures

Male-Female Literacy Rate Diffrentials

Literacy and SC/ST  Literacy rate for the Total population, SC/ST by sex  Highlights of the 1991 Cencus, Literacy State / Union Territory Wise.