Literacy for Citizenship

Gender and Grassroots Dynamics in Brazil

By Nelly P. Stromquist

Subjects: Anthropology
Series: SUNY series, Literacy, Culture, and Learning: Theory and Practice
Paperback : 9780791431665, 248 pages, January 1997
Hardcover : 9780791431658, 248 pages, January 1997

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Table of contents




I. Development, Literacy, and Women

1. Literacy and Development

2. Women and Literacy

3. Grassroots Groups in Literacy

4. Illiteracy in Brazil

II. MOVA as a State-Civil Society Partnership

1. MOVA Features

2. The Context

3. MOVA in the Struggle for Literacy

III. Analytical and Methodological Considerations

1. A Gender Perspective on Literacy/Illiteracy

2. Qualitative Approaches to Literacy Research

3. Constructivist and Emancipatory Approaches to Literacy

4. Data Sources

IV. Characteristics of Women Students in Literacy Programs

1. Women in the Longitudinal Study

2. Women in MOVA as a Whole

3. The Intersection of Poverty and Illiteracy

V. The Classroom Experience in Literacy

1. Snapshots of Three Literacy Classes

2. Literacy Classes as Social Spaces

3. The Political Message of the Classroom

VI. Outcomes from Literacy

1. Cognitive Gains

2. Psychological Gains

3. Changes in the Monitors

4. Literacy Uses and Practices

VII. The Civil Society-State Connection

1. Grassroots Involvement in Education and Literacy

2. The Tensions between Formal Education and Literacy

3. The Reaction of the New Administration of Sao Paulo

4. Assessing the Civil Society-State Partnership

VIII. MOVA through a Feminist Lens

1. The Politics of Everyday Life

2. Women as Citizens

3. Women as Leaders

4. Women's Need for Conscientization

5. Traditional vs. Emancipatory Knowledge

IX. Drawing Conclusions

1. Further Insights into Gender and Literacy

2. GRGs and the Stater in the Pursuit of Literacy

3. Literacy for Citizenship?

4. Key Lessons from the MOVA Experience

5. A Future Research Agenda





Describes the experiences of a group of adult Brazilian women in a literacy program with explicit emancipatory objectives.


This book explores the involvement of nineteen women in an emancipatory literacy program conducted under the administration of Paulo Freire in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The study presents the classroom experiences of these women and the psychological, cognitive, and behavioral changes they undergo over a three-year period. Their low limited acquisition of literacy and their limited reading and writing practices are explored in the context of their circumscribed environment of poverty, living in families and societies that place definite boundaries and expectations regarding the everyday tasks they must perform. The analysis of the women's individual experiences is linked to a political and structural inquiry into the grassroots groups and the political party implementing the literacy program. In this way, contradictions, ambiguities, and antagonisms within and among social forces regarding literacy for social change are made transparent. Literacy acquisition is shown to be a process fraught with multiple exogenous demands that distance these women from the constant exposure to print required for literacy competence.

Nelly P. Stromquist is Professor of International Development Education in the School of Education at the University of Southern California.


"Nelly Stromquist's case study of the MOVA (Movimento de Alfabetizacao de Jovens e Adultos) literacy program in Sao Paulo, Brazil between 1989 and 1993, is a significant contribution to the literature on education and development. It provides insights into the limitations of many current theories concerning the potential of literacy and adult basic education programs, even those with declared 'emancipatory' goals, to effect personal and social change. At the same time, the detailed information obtained by her use of feminist and sociocultural perspectives, and her attention to the individual voices of the participants in this ambitious literacy program, enhances our understanding of what factors shape the acquisition, uses, and outcomes of literacy skills. While the focus is on how a progressive literacy program may or may not benefit women, many of the findings, I believe, have universal relevance. " -- from the Foreword by Dr. Robert Arnove