Fighting Illiteracy for a Peaceful & Disease-free World

800 million people are unable to read and write. Yesterday was International Literacy Day, an occasion created by the United Nations to increase awareness of the amounts of people affected by illiteracy and the harm it does to any advances made in improving poverty and sickness in nations around the world.

Millions of people deal with illiteracy every day, and most of those are women. Of the 793 million illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds are female. Literacy gives people the power to create a picture of a hopeful future, avoid disease, make more money, and provide for their families. The importance of educating women is shown in two profound statistics: In girls and women, HIV/AIDS spreads twice as fast among those who are illiterate. Also, babies who are born to literate mothers have a fifty-percent better chance of living to five-years-old compared to those born to an illiterate mother.

UNESCO recently gave the international Confucius and King Sejong literacy prizes to education institutes who are fighting for literacy to make the following possible:

  • the ability to exercise peace and tolerance
  • the ability for people, women especially, to exercise their rights
  • more reading materials in local and minority languages

With your students or children, share these statistics and the reasons different people are rallying to increase literacy around the world. Brainstorm the different ways you could attack illiteracy around the world. Look at helping from different levels and perspectives by asking questions like:

  • How would you solve illiteracy if money weren’t an option?
  • How would you solve illiteracy if you had a million dollars?
  • How would you solve illiteracy if you didn’t have any money?
  • How could you donate to the cause to make a difference with items or time?


Time and money spent in helping men to do more for themselves is far better than mere giving. ~ Henry Ford



“Literacy vital for overcoming poverty and disease and reinforcing stability – UN” 8 September 2011. Accessed on 8 September 2011. <>

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