Above 770 million adults and 123 million youths in the world are illiterate, the majority of them are female.* While the global literacy rate has improved, the percentage of illiterate females remains. Barriers such as conflict, emergencies, living in remote areas, HIV/AIDS, child labour, extreme poverty, discrimination and having to help boost family income compromise the access to quality education.

Here are some worrying statistics to note:

  • About two-thirds of the 759 million adults (age 15 and older) worldwide who lack basic literacy skills are women.
  • An estimated 70% of the world’s out-of-school children live in sub-Saharan Africa or South and West Asia.
  • In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, youths with five years of primary schooling have a 40% chance of being illiterate.
  • It will cost an estimated $26 billion per year to achieve universal primary education for all by 2015.

Source: UNESCO 2010 Education For All Global Monitoring Report

Typically, it is the marginalised, poor and rural populations, and those affected by conflict and discrimination, which have no access to education. An estimated 57 million children of primary school age are being denied their right to education.**

As mentioned, females are at a disadvantage. They tend to marry early and bear more children at an unhealthy age. Some are even sold into prostitution. These girls have little chance of earning a stable income, are less aware of HIV/AIDS, and are more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Hence, being literate allows girls to fight injustice, and to contribute to their economies.

*UNESCO, 2014
**Schooling for Millions of Children Jeopardised by Reductions in Aid, UNESCO

Eleven-year-old Khaima Athsanthavong from Laos has many dreams. She wants to become a nurse and hopes to take care of her ageing parents in future. To do that, she needs to be educated. So for a start, having a library in her school would be good.

Read more about Khaima and the dire situation in Laos to provide quality education to children.