Adult Learning and Education: Agent of women empowerment


By Dyson Mthawanji:

Education is considered the most important tool for empowering women in society. It is not limited to developing the personality of an individual but also plays an important role in economic, social and cultural development.

However, when women miss basic education, Adult Learning and Education (ALE) becomes critical and a positive contribution to their success. To women, adult education can mean going to adult and numeracy class or being trained in capacity building and skills development or, better yet, being mentored on very essential aspects of life.


The attempts to empower women have been made through the decades. Considerable efforts have been made by governments and other agencies and, more recently Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been established to address women’s needs.

SDG 4 aims at “ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

It is important for Malawi to look at ALE as a powerful tool for transforming women’s lives, mainly in rural areas where most of them miss primary education.


Adult education becomes crucial to enhance women’s capabilities to be able to organise themselves, to improve their skills for generating income, to increase their own self-reliance, to assert their independent right to make decisions or choices and to be able to control resources which will assist them in challenging and eliminating their subordination status.

A number of studies have revealed that uneducated women have low potential for earning, poor dietary status and little independence in the household. The lack of education also has a drastic effect on the health and well-being of the kids. Therefore, ALE can help stakeholders fill such a gap.

In most Malawian communities, women are perceived as the face and main players in village savings and loan associations (VSLAs). This can work well if women were given basic skills in finance management.

Women empowerment through ALE is a pivotal part of any society, state or country. It is the woman who plays a dominant role in the basic life of a child. Women are an important section of Malawi’s society. ALE can, as a means of empowering women, bring about a positive attitudinal change. ALE is, therefore, crucial for the socio-economic and political progress of Malawi.

Women empowerment is a global issue and discussions on women’s political rights are at the forefront of many formal and informal campaigns worldwide. The concept of women empowerment, which was introduced at the international women conference in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1985 recognises education as a great tool for empowering women. Therefore, ALE, which falls under education, is the milestone of women empowerment because it enables them to respond to challenges, confront their traditional role and change their lives, hence Malawi cannot neglect the importance of ALE in reference to women empowerment.

Women empowerment can be viewed as a means of creating a social environment in which women can make decisions and make choices, either individually or collectively, for social transformation. Empowerment strengthens the innate ability by way of acquiring knowledge, power and experience.

Although women in Malawi have generally attained an averagely high level of empowerment, there is more room for improvement in the areas of education, economy and decision-making in the home and community. Women’s skills need some sharpening so that their level of empowerment can be enhanced. To achieve this, ALE becomes an essential tool since education is regarded as the foremost agent of empowerment.

The foremost negotiator of women empowerment is education and it is the only passport to liberation, political and financial empowerment for women. Education contributes to sustainable development and brings about positive change in women’s routines. It has the potential of increasing earnings, improving health and raising productivity.

*The author is DVV International Communications Officer for Southern Africa.

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