I know social issues are usually Donovan’s domain and Thursday is my Changing Lives day, but let me assure you that this post on women’s illiteracy is in the right place. Over the next few weeks I am going to be posting about service projects, charities, and fundraisers that all support ending illiteracy for women. Before I start sharing those, I thought that I would open your eyes to this problem we will soon start solving.
Most of us in the U.S., especially those who are reading this post, right this instant, can read. (duh, you’re reading). Since Kindergarten, sometimes earlier, we are taught to read. Site words every week, picture books, and on up to novels, biographies, even blogs. It’s weird for us, especially me, to think that someone out there can’t do that. We take for granted this skill that is as natural as speaking, and don’t realize how fortunate we are.
So you might be wondering why I am just focusing on women for the social issue. The answer is pretty simple. Women hold the cards. If a woman can’t read, they can’t really work, and then can’t send their children to school. 2/3 of illiterate people are women. 493,000,000 women are illiterate. These are not children. These are women 15 years and older. They should be able to read. Decreasing illiteracy will not only teach women to read, it will change the world.
Irina Bokova, general director of UNESCO, states that “newly literate women have a positive ripple effect.” Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, further adds to the argument by explaining that giving women the ability to read allows them to gain an economic footing and better participate in their country and culture. The ripple effect is seen when newly literate women are able to start their own business that allows them to send their children, especially girls, to secondary school, where they will learn to be economically sufficient themselves.
The illiteracy differences between men and women seen in developing countries is just another example of gender inequality that the world faces. Because of cultural traditions, families that are able to afford to send their children to secondary school send their boys rather than their girls because girls are pressured to play the domestic role: wife, mother, housekeeper.
When girls aren’t able to go to secondary school they are at risk. Lack of information puts girls at risk of STD, pregnancy, and unsafe abortion, especially since 1 in 3 women are attacked, either sexually or physically. These girls now contribute to 1/3 of single parent households. Single mothers are much poorer than single fathers because they do not have any economic standing.
In addition, once girls are forced into these domestic roles they lack control over the major spending within their marriage. 1/10 of women in developing country lack any control of the money in the marriage, including the money they make themselves. can you see the common theme? Without education, women have no power.
What has been done?
Basic, primary education has been established in most developing countries. This is great, but at the end of primary school, literacy has not been established. The basics are there, but for these children to succeed, they need to go to secondary school.
Luckily several individuals and organizations have taken it upon themselves to help girls go to on to secondary school and even start their own businesses.
Over the next few weeks we will be learning about these people and what we, here, can do end illiteracy.