Reading around International Literacy Day

Posted by Ian McClelland Communications Assistant, Policy & Practice Communications Team

8th Sep 2011

Adult literacy in Tanzania

This year's International Literacy Day focuses on the relationship between literacy and peace. Ian McClelland takes a closer look. 

At my count there are 104 UN observance days throughout the year, neatly averaging two a week. These are vital moments for promoting the aims of high-profile causes and more niche concerns alike. 

For Oxfam, observance days associated with our core areas of work - like International Women's Day (8 March) and World Food Day (16 October) - are crucial times to ride the wave of interest, increase awareness, and communicate our concerns. Others, such as World Television Day (21 November FYI and admittedly more deserving of recognition than my initial snap-judgement led me to think), tend to fall by the way-side.

Today is in the first group as 8 September is International Literacy Day, first proclaimed by UNESCO in 1965. According to UNESCO, literacy remains an elusive target: some 793 million adults lack minimum literacy skills, most of them girls and women. A further 67 million children of primary school age are not in primary school and 72 million adolescents of lower secondary school age are also missing out their right to an education. (2009 figures).

This year's International Literacy Day focuses on the relationship between literacy and peace. UNESCO is hosting an awards ceremony in New Delhi, India, to celebrate projects that have highlighted the central role of literacy in promoting human rights, gender equality, conflict resolution and cultural diversity. 

The write-up for the 2011 winners (PDF) is a good read and includes examples of projects from Burundi, Mexico, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Unites States of America. There's also nice quote from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, worth repeating here verbatim:

"Literacy is a development accelerator and a force for peace. 

First, literacy empowers individuals, equipping them with the skills and confidence to seek out vital information and to make informed choices that have a direct impact on their families and communities.

Second, literacy is a condition for individuals to effectively participate in democratic processes, to claim a voice in community organizations, gain political knowledge and thereby contribute to shaping the quality of public policies.

Third, literacy programmes strengthen mutual understanding by enabling people to share ideas and to express, preserve and develop their cultural identity and diversity." 

As for us, here's a list of some of Oxfam's resources relating to literacy:



Browse all Oxfam's publications on education

Also on the education agenda for this month is Oxfam's appearance at UKFIET 2011 (UK Forum for International Education and Training), taking place in Oxford, UK, 13-15 September. The theme for this year's event is 'Global Challenges for Education: Economics, Environment and Emergency'.


Oxfam staff will be making two presentations on 'WASH and education: enhancing girls' participation in schools in Pakistan' and 'Increasing children's access to safe drinking water through low-cost technologies in Mali'.

To coincide with the event, four papers will be published early next week which fall under the broad heading of Gender, WASH and Education, but with a focus on specific country programme contexts: 

Blog post written by Ian McClelland

Communications Assistant, Policy & Practice Communications Team

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