2003-12 has been designated the ‘Literacy Decade: Education For All’
by the United Nations. Creating literate environments is essential to ensuring sustainable development, gender equality and poverty eradication. The UN believes that literacy is a human right and a means for social and human development. One in five adults is illiterate and of the illiterate population, two-thirds are women. Read about my experiences and see my photos of my time in Ghana teaching literacy to a group of engaging women.
The theme for the 2010 day was ’The Power of Women’s Literacy’ celebrating women’s empowerment through literacy. Without knowledge of this being that year’s UN day, in July 2010, I went to Ghana and taught disadvantaged women as a literacy teacher and learnt first hand what it can mean to women’s lives to have education and, therefore, get out of the poverty trap. Many of the women I taught came from broken homes or had teenage pregnancies, which hindered any chance of a career. They also came from poor areas in the North of Ghana where there were less jobs for them and hence they were taken advantage of by being put in gruelling work down in the South of the country. Literacy can truly make a difference.
Why is literacy so important?
According to Unesco.org, ‘one in five adults are still not literate about two thirds of them are women’. They go on to say that literacy is a human right- a means for social and human development,
Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy.’
Literacy means people can read important documents and learn about the world around them, to help themselves and their families. Literacy can be used to help in the fight against HIV and Malaria. With so many in the developing world illiterate, it is important that we remember on this day, and increase literacy programmes across the areas that desperately need it.
According to UNESCO’s “Global Monitoring Report on Education for All (2008)”, South and West Asia has the lowest regional adult literacy rate (58.6%), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (59.7%). Countries with the lowest literacy rates in the world are Burkina Faso (12.8%), Niger (14.4%) and Mali (19%), all in Africa. The report shows a clear connection between illiteracy and countries in severe poverty, and between illiteracy and prejudice against women.
Contributed by Eleanor Segall
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