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RAMADI, Iraq (July 8, 2008) - An instructor for the Women’s Literacy Program in Ramadi teaches a class of women July 6. The program’s classes are held daily at four locations in the city and are designed to teach illiterate women how to read and write Arabic, while also teaching more educated women the fundamentals of English.

Photo by 1st Lt. Emily Grant

Literacy program key to women’s future

8 Jul 2008 | Lance Cpl. Casey Jones

A middle-aged Iraqi woman, widowed and a mother of two young children, walks into a cream-colored concrete classroom filled with women of all ages. The woman, draped in a black abaya, sits down in a wooden desk-chair and gazes at the instructor with a look of determination and conviction. She knows, along with the other women in the classroom, she must learn to read and write if she is going to continue to support and properly care for her two children. The woman has taken the initial steps in bettering her family and herself.

Women’s Literacy Program classes are held daily at four locations in the city of Ramadi, and are designed to teach illiterate women how to read and write Arabic, while also teaching more educated women the fundamentals of English.

The program is divided into three levels, said Falah Daud Suleiman, an Iraqi instructor at one of the programs. The first level is for people who don’t know how to read or write. The second level is for those who know how to read and write, but require additional teaching so they can become proficient. The third level is for those who are proficient in the Arabic language but desire to learn English.

The program, while mostly attended by older Iraqi women, is open to any female, regardless of age. Some of the young girls enrolled in the program have missed various amounts of school due to the violence that engulfed Ramadi for much of the last five years. The program allows them to catch up on any lost time. Nearly 400 women and young girls attend classes at the four locations in Ramadi.

While it focuses mainly on educating the women on the Arabic language, the program also has several other benefits that will boost the women’s opportunities, said 1st Lt. Emily Grant, the executive officer of Civil Affairs Detachment 2, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1.

  “[Instructors teach] the women how to read shop signs and how to add up prices,” said Grant, a 28-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y. “Most of the women will earn their Educational Certificate, (which will help them to get jobs).”

The program allows women the opportunity to rise above their past misfortunes and allows them to take a more active role in their community and local government, while also stimulating the local economy.

  “An increased female literacy rate empowers the women of Ramadi to participate in elections and the government process,” Grant said.

The empowered women of Ramadi are able to attend the popular and heavily promoted programs because of the increased security and stability in the city.

“If security in the region wasn’t as good as it is now, we wouldn’t be able to [provide this program],” Grant said. “Without security, the people, especially the females, would be too afraid to leave their homes and come to a course like this. It is a direct reflection of the security [gains here in Ramadi].”

Grant said it is amazing to see the region enjoying security and prosperity, and she takes pleasure in personally witnessing the citizens’ willingness to learn.

“It is wonderful to see such a desire for learning throughout the community,” Grant said. “As the home of al-Anbar University, the citizens of Ramadi have always valued education. The women and girls now have a great opportunity to increase their education.”


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