Women’s Right to Literacy

6 September 2012

Women’s Right to Literacy, which is led by NIACE and the Literacy Working Group, is underpinned by the belief that literacy is a global human right which contributes to personal, community, familial and economic development, as well as social and political engagement.

Around 514 million women throughout the world are illiterate and many are unable to access effective education programmes. In 41 countries women are twice as likely as men to be illiterate and the majority of the more than 115 million children out of school are girls.

The Women’s Right to Literacy Initiative calls upon international development agencies – including, amongst others, UNESCO, the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and the European Union – to:

1. Develop strategies for improving women’s access to learning literacy and numeracy, through financial and technical support and policy development. We urge governments in the global South to dedicate at least 3 per cent of their national education sector budgets to adult literacy programming with a special emphasis on women’s literacy.

2. Provide resource and technical support to developing countries in order to build upon their developments in family and intergenerational learning, taking particular account of their association with early years and primary education. This will contribute to the effectiveness and impact of girls’ education.

3. Offer technical assistance to heighten and accelerate the effectiveness of social and economic development policies and programmes, through strategies which integrate women’s literacy in vocational and enterprise training, as well as in health information and training.

4. Ensure that teacher-training curricula, both initial and in-service, give adequate attention and time to teachers’ own literacy development. This will improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning across all subjects and help in the development of positive role models for both women and girls.

Baroness Mary T Goudie, said:

“Gender equalities, greater participation by women in community and economic activities, as well as in their health and that of their families, could all be supported, enhanced and changed by literacy learning. In addition, the effectiveness of girls’ education would be increased through the development of women’s literacy.

I support these calls for action by the Literacy Working Group in the drive towards achieving the Education for All and Millennium Development Goals in 2015. I call upon the key development agencies and organisations to take up the challenges to support the world’s women to achieve their potential and break down the barriers of discrimination.”

Jan Eldred, Chair of the Literacy Working Group and NIACE Senior Research Fellow, said:

“Educated women have more confidence and self-esteem; they take control of their health, and are more likely to insist on the education of their daughters and grand-daughters. A literate woman is better equipped to access financial services, to read and understand agreements and other documents and to keep accurate records and accounts.

We recognise that there are many programmes, projects and initiatives which work hard to address women’s literacy. However a lack of committed policies, dedicated resources, technical expertise and the low quality of learning experiences has led to minimal impact and continuity. Education for All cannot be limited to schooling for young people; Education for All must include Education for All Women.

We believe that our calls for action will lead to more effective programmes for gender equity, family health and personal and economic skills. They will increase community support for girls’ education and enable women to make greater contributions to local and national decision-making.”