Adult Literacy

Adult literacy is a primary factor in the fight against worldwide poverty. When adults are unable to read, it impacts their daily lives. They can’t read medicine bottles, road signs, legal papers, ingredients, menus, and so on. In a society that is strongly dependent on the written word, this leaves many without the understanding that comes from reading.

What is literacy?

“Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen, and use numeracy and technology, at a level that enables people to express and understand ideas and opinions, to make decisions and solve problems, to achieve their goals, and to participate fully in their community and in wider society.”1

Adult illiteracy impacts the whole family. Parents who are illiterate are unable to help their children with schoolwork, and oftentimes they consider education of little value. Illiterate adults are also unable to use technology effectively because they must be able to spell, read, and type letters in order to access much of the digital world. This holds them back from many jobs and careers.

Illiteracy is most common in developing countries. This is especially true in south Asia and sub-Saharan African countries. In these areas, illiteracy rates are close to 50 percent. East Asia and Latin American countries have illiteracy rates in the 10-15 percent range. In contrast, a developed country’s illiteracy rate is only a few percent.2 Here are more poverty literacy statistics.

GFA World – a significant literacy nonprofit – reports that there are more than 250 million women in Asia today who are illiterate, and they are committed to helping solve this deficiency. In fact, in just 12 months, GFA taught over 60,000 women to read and write through their free adult literacy program.

These literacy classes are taught by trained female national workers. They diligently and patiently teach their students letters and words, using techniques that have been successful in teaching adult literacy. In many areas, they also teach students to hold a pencil. These literacy classes have changed many lives.

These literacy classes are taught by trained female national workers. They diligently and patiently teach their students letters and words, using techniques that have been successful in teaching adult literacy. In many areas, they also teach students to hold a pencil. These literacy classes have changed many lives.

What happens when a woman learns to read and write? Literacy is considered by many literacy organizations to be one of the “great miracle cures” to poverty. GFA workers have seen entire villages make economic gains by increasing their literacy.

Through literacy help for adults, women learn:


How to read


Learning basic reading skills transforms a woman’s life. She can read warning labels, road signs, contracts, and help her children with their schoolwork. She can also read books and stories to her children, which, in turn, helps their literacy, imagination, and development.

Basic math


Acquiring basic math skills allows women to buy and sell in the marketplace without being taken advantage of.

How to better provide


Literacy skills help a woman provide for her family in ways she couldn’t before. New employment and income opportunities open to her.

The Word of God


When women learn to read, they can study God’s Word for themselves. They can read about Jesus and grow in their spiritual lives.

Jeni is a wonderful example of how literacy can change a life.


She had always longed for the opportunity to attend school, but poverty hindered those dreams. As an adult, she found herself reaping the consequences of illiteracy—unable to read newspapers, street signs, shopping lists, etc. When her grandson asked for help with his homework, Jeni couldn’t help him.

After her husband died when Jeni was only in her 20s, she became the sole provider for her family. She became a tailor, but she was often cheated by dishonest people. She couldn’t read the contracts or do basic math.

As the years passed, Jeni thought her opportunity to learn how to read and write had passed. Then one day she was invited to attend a literacy class taught by three women at a local church. Jeni was shy and hesitant at first, but once she attended her first class, she eagerly began learning. Her dream was once again within reach!

“I am so thankful to God and our women [teachers] for their help,” Jeni shared. “Though I had the desire [to learn], I never went to school.”

The literacy lessons use God’s Word as a foundation for learning, so Jeni and her classmates also learned about the love of Jesus. Within six months, Jeni could read and write!

“I am very happy that my mother is able to read and write now by the help of [these] women,” Jeni’s daughter shared. “These days, she is able to negotiate with the shopkeepers and writes her signature.”

Jeni’s excitement over her new skill soars, and she thanks God for ending the struggle that troubled her for decades.

“Today,” Jeni declares, “I am proud to say I am not illiterate.”

You can help other women discover hope and freedom from illiteracy by donating toward GFA World Women’s Literacy today.

1 Literacy. Memorial Assistance Ministries / Literacy Advance of Houston. www.mamhouston.org/literacyadvance. Accessed 14 July 2019.
2 “Literacy”. Wikipedia. www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/wikispeedia/wpcd/wp/l/Literacy.htm. Accessed 14 July 2019.