Literacy Bridge’s Talking Book Program has expanded its work with the Mennonite Economic Development Association (MEDA) and forged a new partnership with the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE).
Both CARE and MEDA work with women’s groups organized by local VSLAs (Village Savings and Loan Associations) that help women come together to discuss issues surrounding agriculture, marketing, and gender roles. The Talking Book is a way for these women to reinforce their VLSA discussions as well as to share information with the local communities and with their families. It also provides a way for a majority illiterate population to remember and re-hear vital information, when jotting down information on a post-it note for later is not a viable option. The information is not only informative and educational, but entertaining as well, with message formats ranging from expert interviews to dramas and songs performed by local groups.
MEDA is an international development organization that works to develop business solutions to poverty and hopes to help individuals and their families improve their livelihoods. Literacy Bridge first began its partnership with MEDA in 2013 through a pilot program in 30 women’s groups. Today, that number has expanded to over 600. MEDA runs the Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) Program that focuses on women and families in Ghana’s Upper West and Northern regions. Their goal is to train and educate smallholder women farmers to enhance farm productivity, increase awareness surrounding nutrition, diversify agricultural production, strengthen market linkages, teach financial knowledge and skills, and ultimately reduce food insecurity and better the lives of women and their families in these communities. Through this partnership, Literacy Bridge and MEDA reach 16,550 people directly and impact over 124,000 people through the dissemination of information to family and community members. One participant in MEDA’s program said the following:
“The Talking Book is better than the radio because it deals with issues that affect our daily lives. The radio sometimes talks about things that are not useful to us but we cannot ask the people inside there to switch to a different topic but with the Talking Book we decide what to listen to and when to do that. All the topics are useful to men, women, and children.” – Hillia Kazie (Kohuo)
CARE is Literacy Bridge’s newest partnership, which began in May 2015. CARE works with some of the poorest communities in the world, helping individuals and families improve their quality of life. CARE uses the Talking Book program in 58 women’s groups in Ghana through their Pathways to Empowerment Program, which works to empower women to more fully engage in equitable agriculture systems. They strive to achieve positive outcomes surrounding gender roles and societal norms, marketing, and agricultural productivity, food security and resistance to shocks of smallholder women famers and their families. CARE hopes to achieve these outcomes through supporting advocacy and policy change, engaging men and boys in the discussion, nurturing community organizations, and facilitating market linkages.
“First I used to farm & harvest my produce…even when my wife [did] not know when I would sell the food. But now I sit with my wife, we discuss what to sell and what to keep for family feeding. This is from the knowledge I learned from CARE and the group members.” –Anaasa Abugbil, 62 (Tankpasi)
The Literacy Bridge Staff works to support its partners through a variety of activities, including recording content with local experts, performing community monitoring visits, and providing partners with statistics on how the Talking Book is being used. We are excited to continue our work with both MEDA and CARE and provide rural Ghanaians with the tools they need to improve their lives.