THE BLOG

I Signed Away My Possessions Because I Couldn't Read

28/02/2014 12:25 GMT | Updated 29/04/2014 10:59 BST

My first husband married me when I was 12 years old. We travelled to Jordan to live together. He took a little girl with him who didn't know anything about life. I didn't know how to read and write. He used to teach me how to write my name - it was the first thing he did. He used to teach me in a fun way when he returned from a long day at work.

But he used to do strange things. Once he told me to sign a paper I could not read. It was a paper in which I gave up my possessions and rights. That included my furniture, my gold, as well as my rights to any monthly expenses. I signed a paper I couldn't read because I wanted to make him happy - or maybe I didn't want to endure his anger. He started to treat me very badly. I was abused. We were eventually divorced.

I was told by doctors that I wouldn't be able to have children but I got married for a second time to a man who loved me and told me he didn't want children. However, my second husband eventually divorced me for not bearing children.

I did get married for a third time. I dreamed of having children and hoped some light would find its way in to my life. And Allah was generous to me. I became pregnant and I couldn't believe it. I gave birth to Islam. He was my first real happiness. When they brought him to me in the hospital and said he was my son, I asked: "Is this my son? He will call me mother?" I wanted to kiss him and see him. I started inhaling his scent while the doctors started crying with me. He was the first real hope I had in my life. And I went on with my life and my children went to school.

Being unable to read continued to cause me problems. The little boys, Islam and Muhammad, used to get sick. They would write down the treatment and I didn't understand it. I would hold the medicine and wonder: "Which one is for a fever? Which one is for the flu? Which one is for the diarrhoea?" I didn't know. How could I know? I would go to the doctor and tell him to mark one medicine with three strikes and another with two so I knew what to give to my children. I was, at times, like a blind person not knowing where to go or what I was doing. My illiteracy led to many worrying moments, including the time I gave my child the wrong medicine.

One day, Miss Zamzam came and said she was going to start a class for literacy, as part of the Vodafone Egypt Foundation's Knowledge is Power programme, and asked us all to come. I started to learn how to read and write. I started learning new words from her which I would use in my writing. And I learned maths. And now, I am so happy to hold the Quran and read it.

They came to us in class and told us that they had a new smartphone application and asked us if we wanted to learn how to use it. The app teaches you how to write as well as read. It teaches you how to add, to divide and to multiply. It is amazing. I could be sitting at home with my neighbours and use the app to help teach them reading and maths.This application helps me now when I go to buy things from the market, as it helps me calculate my purchases and find out exactly how much I have saved.

Now I can read. No one can make me sign anything and no one can fool my children in to signing anything they shouldn't. Knowledge is light, knowledge is a weapon and knowledge is like the sun in every house.

Wafaa Mohamad Ramadan will be speaking at the Vodafone Foundation's Connected Women Summit in London on 3 March. This blog is a translation of a video recording in which Wafaa told her story