President's Corner

Zonta International emphasizes importance of education on International Literacy Day

8 September 2016

Zonta International emphasizes importance of education on International Literacy Day

Today, we join the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in celebrating the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day.

In 1966, UNESCO officially proclaimed 8 September International Literacy Day to mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as a way to empower individuals, communities and societies.

“International Literacy Day 2016 celebrates and honors the past five decades of national and international engagement, efforts and progress made to increase literacy rates around the world,” explains a statement from UNESCO. “It also addresses current challenges and looks to innovative solutions to further boost literacy in the future.”

This is the first year of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Literacy is a part of Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

According to new literacy data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), there are 758 million adults 15 years and older who still cannot read or write a simple sentence. Roughly two-thirds of them (around 500 million) are female.

Education is the key to development in the future. In an effort to work toward Goal 4 and Goal 5, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” three of Zonta International’s projects this biennium involve educating women and girls.

Partnering with the Ministry of National Education, an integrated program for adolescent girls in Madagascar will promote a common vision of investing in junior secondary education for girls as an entry point for equity. The goal is to create opportunities for vulnerable and excluded girls to realize their rights to an education in a secure and protective environment.

Since 2008, Zonta International has committed US$2,550,000 to UNFPA to support the Liberia Fistula Project. Literacy classes are part of the project’s rehabilitation and reintegration component, which addresses the economic empowerment needs of survivors through skills building and contributes to their improved self-esteem and dignity.

Among adults 25 – 65 years old, the literacy rate in Niger is just 16 percent, the UIS estimates. Zonta International has supported a project to delay early marriage in Niger since 2014. Girls receive a holistic program of services from mentors, including basic literacy training. When the program began, 69 percent of the girls never attended school, but thanks to the literacy classes, 25 percent of girls reached a satisfactory level of above average at reading at the end of program.

Please join us in celebrating International Literacy Day as we recognize the efforts and progress made around the world to increase literacy rates.

Photo: U.S. Fund for UNICEF



Susanne von Bassewitz is the 2018-2020 President of Zonta International and the Zonta International Foundation.

»Read her biography.