Empowerment through literacy

Education can transform a society and contribute to social, economic and political equality. One of the focuses of ActionAid's current education work is the empowerment of women through literacy.

At least five million women have learned to read and write – and many more millions of lives have been changed – through Reflect, our internationally renowned approach to adult learning. 

Literacy is increasingly accepted as the ‘invisible glue’ to achieving many broader developmental goals, which are vital to the empowerment of women. The Reflect approach supports this process by empowering marginalised girls and women to analyse and challenge the structural issues driving inequality.

Reflect is an innovative approach to adult learning and social change, which fuses the theories of Paulo Freire with the methodologies of participatory rural appraisal.

Reflect was developed in the 1990s through pilot projects in Bangladesh, Uganda and El Salvador and is now used by over 500 organisations in over 70 countries worldwide. Organisations working with Reflect won UNESCO literacy prizes in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010.

Reflect has been successful in linking the literacy acquisition process with individual and community empowerment – strengthening the capacity of millions of people, particularly women, to secure their basic rights. As such, Reflect is widely considered a highly effective force for social change.

The Reflect website provides more information on the approach, including useful resource materials and stories of Reflect in action. The Reflect Basecamp practitioner forum and the Reflect Facebook page have proved to be useful mechanisms for uniting the global community.