Day 72: The Price of Progress?

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March 12, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra

I think most people around the world would agree that literacy – the ability to read, write, learn, communicate and understand one another – is a good thing.  A great thing.  The best thing?  To me, it seems fundamental to increasing quality of life, but today’s project is exploring the unexpected results of a learned population.

Johannah Reimer has been studying a nearly unbelievable paradox that exists in the most literate region of India, where education has been free and accessible since the 19th century, but which also boasts the highest unemployment, domestic abuse and suicide rates.  This, to me, seems at first to be a true contradiction – education, literacy, quality of life rising directly alongside so many troubling indicators – and so definitely something worth investigating. 

While women in Kerala have been endowed with the benefits of an education—literacy, autonomy, and a sense of pride, they also live in a society that has been characterized by divisions of caste and gender for thousands of years. The data illuminates that something is drastically wrong here. How empowered are these highly educated women? Can we measure empowerment? If women are living in a patriarchal society, can education help to dispel some of the gender stereotypes for both men and women?

This project touches on more than just the prices and perils of modernization; Reimer is exploring the intricate cultural infrastructure that surrounds the women (and men) of India, and questions what can be done to limit the negative impacts of what should be a truly positive force for humanity.

The primary objective of this Kickstarter project is to tell this unbelievable truth through photojournalism, but Reimer’s overarching goal is to connect with, understand and perhaps relate to the most troubled families in the midst of this great, modern paradox.  In so doing, I expect we’ll not only learn more about what’s led to the eruption of troubling statistics, but hopefully how better to address them.  Join me in helping Johannah to demonstrate  that humanity – all of humanity – can attain literacy and education as a fundamentally positive force if we reveal and confront all the unintended consequences it’s borne in Kerala.  Back this project by March 17.


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