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19th Annual Nepal Lecture 2021July 05, 2021
Lecture title: “We didn’t get to study so we learned to weave”: Women, indigenous learning and functional literacy in Nepal (“हामीले पढ्न पाएनौँ, त्यसैले बुन्न सिक्यौँ”: नेपालमा महिला, रैथाने सिकाइ र व्यावहारिक साक्षरता)
By: Prof. Sushan Acharya (Professor of Education at the Central Department of Education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal)
Date, time and venue:
Date: 9 December 2021, TBC.
Venue: SOAS, London (Covid-19 development permitting, otherwise it will be organised online).
This paper challenges the dominant deficit model of adult literacy and learning, arguing that women’s literacy and non-formal education initiatives in Nepal have disregarded women’s knowledge and their ability to engage in intergenerational knowledge and skill transfer. Household data in Nepal (Population Census 2011 and Nepal Labour Force Survey 2018) have shown no recent improvement in adult women’s literacy rates, despite administrative data evidencing positive changes in women’s education from primary level to higher education. This has led to a continued policy focus on making adult women functionally literate, on the assumption that they can become more active citizens. By contrast, findings from a large qualitative study on family literacy, indigenous learning and sustainable development conducted in four different communities in Nepal, reveal that women have rich knowledge and skills that they have been using and passing on for ages to sustain family livelihood, and community culture and tradition.
Dr Sushan Acharya is Professor of Education at the Central Department of Education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and a prominent female academic in Nepal. She has been conducting research studies and providing consultancy services in the education sector for more than 20 years. Formal education, non-formal education, qualitative research and evaluation, gender and social inclusion are her major professional areas of interest. She is currently leading UKRI-funded research in four districts of Nepal on indigenous learning, family literacy and health literacy (https://www.uea.ac.uk/research/explore/family-literacy). She has published journal articles related to gender, literacy and social inclusion in education, including ‘Gender, jobs and education: Prospects and realities in Nepal’ published by UNESCO in Kathmandu in 2015. Sushan’s work challenging the dominant adult literacy approaches, for their lack of understanding of indigenous intergenerational learning among adult women, has been influential in informing the Nepal Government’s education and adult literacy policies and practices. She served twice as a member of the High Level Education Commission (in 2017, and 2018-19), and as a special invitee to the Non-Formal Education and Lifelong Learning Thematic Group formed for the purpose of preparing Education Sector Plan (2021-2031 [2078-2087]) in 2020. She obtained a doctorate in education (ED.D) from the University of University of Massachusetts in 1999.