Adult literacy and women's empowerment : exploring the contribution of a non-formal adult literacy programme to women's empowerment in Aileu, Timor Leste : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Albany, Manawatu [i.e. Manawatu], New Zealand
While the majority of studies concerning education in Timor Leste have focused on formal schooling, this thesis seeks to explore the contribution of non-formal adult literacy programmes (NFALP) to rural women’s empowerment in Aileu, Timor Leste by examining the challenges that rural women face in their daily lives, whether their participation in the NFALP and literacy acquisition has assisted them with overcoming these challenges and brought benefits to their lives, and if this has led to their empowerment. The study adopts a gender perspective and focuses on the individual voices of rural adult women in considering how NFALPs are impacting on rural women’s lives, and provides a space for their voice, one which has been marginalised in the literature so far, to be heard. The study examines three important empowerment frameworks presented by Rowlands (1995), Kabeer (1999) and Stromquist (1993) which are relevant to research concerning women and education. The study employs a qualitative feminist methodology in seeking an in-depth understanding of the reality and lived experience of rural women participating in the programme through semi-structured interviews with literacy programme participants and key informants during a period of fieldwork in Timor Leste
The research findings reveal that the motivation behind women’s participation in a NFALP is directly related to addressing their practical gender needs, rather than their strategic gender needs, which revolve around reproductive tasks and unpaid productive work. The study found that NFALP offers rural women who missed out on formal schooling another opportunity to achieve an education, however, yet the heavy burden of women’s traditional reproductive roles severely restricts their ability to regularly attend NFALP. Finally, the research found that rural women did experience empowerment through their participation in the NFALP, the most common empowerment dimension experienced being the personal (Rowlands, 1995) or psychological dimension (Stromquist, 1993) of empowerment.