The socioeconomic impact of literacy program participation on women in rural Mali

Laurel Diana Puchner, University of Pennsylvania


The study described in this dissertation assesses the socio-economic impact of participation in literacy programs on women in rural Mali, and examines the interaction between the culture of formal instruction that characterized the literacy classes and traditional culture. The study used qualitative and quantitative methods to collect data over a nine-month period in four villages. Methods included household observation, interview, observation of literacy classes, and administration of a test of literacy skills and a questionnaire of socio-economic attitudes and practices. The study found that lives of literate women in the communities studied differed little from those of their nonliterate counterparts. Despite the presence of literacy programs in the villages, it was difficult for women to become literate, and women who had obtained literacy skills rarely used them. The author argues that subtle ideological forces in the communities made it very difficult for literacy to bring about socio-economic change in women's lives. Rather, "women's literacy" had been appropriated into the prevailing male-dominant socio-political culture. The study shows that simply providing literacy skills may not guarantee positive consequences for women in certain contexts. Decisions about whether to implement literacy development programs for women may need to take into account the socio-political adjustments necessary for effective literacy development.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Adult education|Continuing education|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Puchner, Laurel Diana, "The socioeconomic impact of literacy program participation on women in rural Mali" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9829975.