An India-focused adult literacy program has been short-listed for an international humanitarian prize for having taught nearly 60,000 women to read and write in 35 days, making it one of the fastest literacy programs in the world.
Known as TARA Akshar+, the program was first launched in 2005 by the India-based NGO Development Alternatives Group has since been introduced in eight Indian states, including many of the country’s poorest. TARA Akshar+ has recently been short-listed for a $100,000 prize, the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, aimed at rewarding strategies that have “significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems.” High up on the jury’s criteria is the feasibility of the projects. The winners of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, named after the American designer and inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller, will be announced June 10 in New York.
Although men can enroll, too, so far the literacy program has attracted almost exclusively female students – something Victor Lyons, a British mental health expert who developed the program’s teaching method, attributes to a combination of men’s pride and women’s desire to become more empowered in the eyes of their families and village communities.