A Family Knit Close : A woman uses her new literacy to turn her life around

Despite the fact that Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in education, national data reports 41% of the population are still illiterate, with the bulk of these unfortunate people in the remote hard-to-reach areas. Musammat Banisa Begum, hailing from the very remote riverine island of Kurigram district in northern Bangladesh is a middle-aged woman of indomitable high spirits, shares her experience with Friendship’s adult learning to turn her life around, a program you can contribute to.

Banisa is a single mother who raised her 4 children. Her husband had left her a decade prior, having found a younger woman. Missing for over 10 years, he has not checked up on any of them since he left. This, however, doesn’t bother her at all. “Why would it trouble me? No trouble at all. He didn’t help much anyway” she says, stifling a smile.

Her younger son is in Class 7 and the older one works in Dhaka, the busy capital of Bangladesh. The younger daughter is in Class 9, and her older sister is married with an infant of her own.

Her life, however, wasn’t always as problem-free as it is now. She admits there was a time that she was struggling to make ends meet, and couldn’t give her children three meals a day. She was a domestic helper in many other houses, made quilts and mended clothes, and did whatever else she could. Exacerbating this fact was that she had no idea how to read or write, and is sure that she was fleeced more than once.

“I couldn’t do any maths,” she says, “I had no idea how much I was earning or spending, and had no idea how to keep track of my finances”. That’s not the case anymore, however, as she was one of the women that Friendship’s survey team had come upon, and had immediately signed up for the Adult Learning programme. Friendship offers adults and youths a second chance at education through an 8-month adult literacy course where they learn to read, write and do basic numeracy. Once completed they are encouraged to attend a vocational training program such as weaving and tailoring. After successfully completing the training, Banisa then took some financial support of Taka 5,000 from Friendship, about $60, bought a sewing machine, and started sewing her fortune.

Her life was completely turned around. A budding seamstress, she now sows, manages her books and looks after her children all on her own. She underlines how stress-free she is now that she can feed her children without worry.

“In 2-3 months I will be making shirts and trousers,” she says gleefully, “I want to expand my repertoire. I will be making even more money then.”

Last year, 1,450 adolescents and adults completed functional literacy classes in 73 Friendship Learning Centres. “Aside from providing functional literacy for adolescents and adults, Friendship Education sector also enables the children of the chars and coastal areas of Bangladesh develop their potential through quality education, teaching them character building and awareness of their rights and obligations,” says Ayesha Taasin Khan, director and head of inclusive citizenship and education of Friendship.

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