Thematic Areas


E 2 - Literacy for empowerment

E 2 - Literacy for empowerment

Literacy is a right. It also has multiple benefits - human, political, cultural, social and economic. Literacy can improve self-esteem and individual empowerment, influence increased political participation, transform attitudes, improve livelihood options and reduce poverty. A lack of basic literacy and language skills prevents people living in poverty accessing power. And yet, about 14% of the world’s adults – 781 million people - lack basic literacy. Nearly two thirds of them are women, and the vast majority live in South and West Asia and Sub Saharan Africa. The Education for All goal of a 50% reduction in adult illiteracy by 2015 was missed by a wide margin, reflecting a long-standing neglect of literacy in education policy. 

A successful adult literacy programme recognises that literacy is a continuous process that requires sustained learning and application, involves well-trained and adequately remunerated local facilitators, is participatory and rooted in the lives of the learners, and involves ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

Using participatory tools for literacy

In a Reflection-Action literacy process, participants come together regularly (2-3 times per week) over a prolonged period of time. They use participatory visual tools such as trees, rivers and matrices, often created on the ground with local materials such as pebbles and sticks, to discuss and analyse and plan action on issues that are important to the group. Literacy and numeracy work arises directly out of the graphics, as participants learn to write the words that are most relevant to them, translating the graphics onto paper and copying them in their notebooks. They continue to develop their literacy skills in ways that are meaningful to the group, for example reading leaflets from the local health centre, writing letters and petitions, or using numeracy skills to analyse the budget of the local school. Use of the media – television, radio and newspapers – to develop literacy skills and stimulate dialogue, analysis and action is very common. In this way, the literacy acquisition process is linked with individual and community empowerment – strengthening people's capacity to secure their basic rights.



Here you can download some useful resources.

Tools in this toolbox

Access and control matrix

To analyse who has the power to access and control different resources and who is denied this.The Access and Control Matrix encou…

Body map

To explore issues around health and sexuality, women’s rights and violence against women.Steps in the processDraw the outline of …

Body map - power within and power to

To facilitate critical analysis about shifts in ‘power within and power to’ with a focus on sensitive subjects such as sexual aut…

Chapatti diagram

To explore relationships between things – particularly the relative importance, influence or power of people, organisations or gr…

Community scorecard

To help groups assess services, facilities programmes or projects run by government, NGOs or other organisations, by grading them…

Daily activity chart

To help participants to analyse how their time is used each day.The processDraw a daily timetable from sunrise to sunset.Ask part…


To present local information, problems and opportunities in a clear, visual way. A basic map of a local area can be overlaid with…

Suggestion box

To enable citizens to submit anonymous complaints, suggestions or questions. Community suggestions boxes allow citizens to submit…