Literacy Will Break All Shackles

“Literacy Is A Foundation To Build A More Sustainable Future For All.”– Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO


The word literacy has acquired new meaning during the past few decades, and it no longer just means being able to read and write. Now literacy also means to be able to read, write, and utilize this skill for their development and sustenance. Literacy is a right, and a means to understand and enjoy other fundamental rights. It is a means of personal and social development. It is a way to break free from the shackles of poverty, ignorance, exclusion, exploitation, and societal vulnerability.

To celebrate the state of living that is literacy, UNESCO, on November 17th, 1965, declared September 8th as the International Literacy Day to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities, and societies. This year marks the 50th anniversary of celebrations, and brings with it reminisces of the past- the conditions, efforts, changes, improvements, and accomplishments; and plans for the future- needs, strategies, and goals. It honors the national and international engagements, efforts, and progress of the past five decades, under the banner “Reading the Past, Writing the Future”.

2016 is also the first year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with a target that by 2030 all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.

UNESCO awards the best and most inspiring efforts across the United Nations in the field of literacy through various prizes and awards. One of them is the UNESCO Confucius prize for literacy. The winner of the 2016 UNESCO Confucius prize for literacy, themed INNOVATION, is an Indian organization Jan Shiksha Sansthan, Malappuram, Kerala. It provides non-formal education and skills training to disadvantaged minority communities under their program, Vocational Skills Development for Sustainable Development, the ad uses an innovative “talking pen” for those who find it difficult in the start. The organization runs on sponsorship provided by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India.


The prize is given during an official ceremony held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, during the 2-day global celebration on September 8th and 9th.


Ms. Irina Bokova says, “We have seen great progress since the proclamation of International Literacy Day by UNESCO in 1966. The world’s population has increased substantially, but the number of young adults without literacy skills decreased by 25 percent between 1990 and 2015. There has been movement in enhancing women’s opportunities to acquire literacy – 43 countries have shown major improvements in gender parity, but not enough. There remain today 758 million adults who cannot read or write a simple sentence. Two-thirds of them are women. On the side-lines of the global village, they receive none of the benefits of globalization and suffer all its costs. These women and men are more vulnerable to ill heath, exploitation and human rights abuse. They are more likely to be unemployed and paid less. Unable to read or write, they are held back from their full potential, and whole communities are locked into vicious cycles of poverty that lay the conditions for violence and strife.”

“Illiteracy Remains Synonymous With Exclusion and Poverty-We Must Turn This Around.”

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