Meet Chuna Devi. Born in Nepal, Chuna was never sent to school, married off at 16, and made to feel that “being born a girl is worthless.” But at the age of 47, she changed her life—and the lives of those around her—by learning to read.
For more than a million women across South Asia like Chuna, READ Centers—community library and resource centers like the one in Chuna’s village in Nepal—have become a powerful platform to empower women to learn about their rights, become leaders, educate their daughters, and pull themselves out of poverty.
READ works with some of the most disadvantaged populations in the world, where literacy rates are less than 50% and more than half of families live below the poverty line. With about 27 million people—more than half living on less than $2 per day—Chuna’s home country of Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. For more than a third of the rural population, it takes four hours or more to get to the nearest all-weather road, making it hard for rural Nepalis to access resources. Social norms make girls’ education a low priority, and as a result 48% of women can’t read. Schools are often inaccessible and have no books for a library or resources for a computer lab, and for much of the year, there is no electricity for up to 16 hours per day.
READ Global built its first READ Center in Nepal in 1991. Today, the nonprofit has established over 50 Centers across the country that offer training programs in education, economic empowerment, technology, and women’s empowerment. With each new Center, READ seeds a small business called a ‘sustaining enterprise’ that generates revenue to maintain the Center in the long run. Each of these sustaining enterprises is developed to address specific community needs: from fish farming and turmeric farming to a community radio station.
By engaging and investing in READ Centers, rural communities are empowered with access to information, education and skills training – ultimately experiencing positive social transformation and increased economic opportunity. This cumulative “READ Effect” results in increased knowledge and prosperity for rural communities today, and better prospects for the future.
To learn more about READ and see how you can support their work, visit readglobal.org.