Women’s Empowerment Through Functional Literacy (Nan Province)
Northern Thailand is known for its highland areas, a difficult to access mountainous region that is the home to many different ethnic populations. Nan Province is situated in the eastern part of the region bordering with Laos. The province is home to Lua, Hmong, Mabri, Htin, and Khamu highland populations, in addition to the lowland Thai ethnic population. The ethnic population speaks its own language that is very different from Thai, and each ethnic population has its unique culture and, as such, the culture has norms about the role of women and girls within the community. Most highland communities are agriculture-based and women have roles both in the field and in the household, while men usually play the role as leaders in the community. Also, it is important to note that women in this area often have a minor role in household decision-making.
In the area of education, Thailand has an extensive primary education system, compulsory up to grade 9. Among highland women, formal education often ends with the 6th grade. Life can be difficult in these areas, and many young women have to drop out of school to help their families in the fields or work in wage labor. The young women in these areas tend to have two main options in life. For many Lua, the only option is to go to Nan City or other cities to find work. However, having only grade 6 education leaves them with low paying jobs. This demographic tends to return to their villages during harvest time to help their families harvest coffee and rice. The other option for these women, and the most common, is to stay behind and subsist on the little agricultural yield that non-harvest times provides and from other occupational activities such as sewing and creating handcrafts. Without being able to communicate in Thai or having any other marketable skills, these women are disempowered.
The women living in the area have to face many other barriers in life apart from the disempowerment that lack of skills and language barriers bring. They also face land security issues, gender power imbalance, and face risk at any given time due to the fact that they don’t know their most basic human rights, and are not fully literate. The Raks Thai Foundation and CARE International believe that empowering women can help develop entire communities, and that all women should have access to education and have functional literacy.
To use tailored functional literacy programs to empower Lua, Hmong, and other ethnic highland women and girls in Nan Province that will allow them to have better occupations, voice their opinions, and become agents of change for other women, their families and their communities.
Females age 15-24 years. The selection of target communities is done through a process of engagement with existing community groups, identifying individuals who most need quality of life development, and occupational strengthening. A key consideration is identifying women who are held back by a lack of accessible, affordable education, or suffer social constraints or disability.
Sub-districts in Nan Province including Bo Kluea, Chiang Klang, Chaloem Phra Kiat, Thung Chang, and Put.