President's Corner

Zonta International promotes education of women and girls on International Literacy Day

8 September 2017

Zonta International promotes education of women and girls on International Literacy Day

Today, organizations around the world are celebrating International Literacy Day under the theme, “Literacy in a Digital World.”

The goal of this year’s Literacy Day is to “look at what kind of literacy skills people need to navigate increasingly digitally mediated societies and to explore effective literacy policies and programs that can leverage the opportunities that the digital world provides,” the United Nations reports.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 750 million adults today still lack even the most basic literacy skills, and nearly two-thirds of illiterate people are women. Additionally, there are 130 million girls not in school today, based on data from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS).

Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” includes a specific target to ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova says we need collective action in order to create and grasp new opportunities to achieve SDG4.

“Partnerships between governments, civil society and the private sector are essential today to promote literacy in a digital world,” Bokova said in a statement.

Zonta International is proud to partner with the United Nations and its organizations in our implementation and support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We are currently partnering with UNICEF USA and the Ministry of National Education for Let Us Learn Madagascar, which creates opportunities for vulnerable and excluded girls to realize their rights to an education in a secure and protective environment.

We have partnered with UNFPA since 2008 for the Liberia Fistula Project. Its rehabilitation and reintegration component, which addresses the economic empowerment needs of survivors through skills building and contributes to their improved self-esteem and dignity, includes literacy classes.

In Niger, the literacy rate for female youth (15-24 years old) is 23 percent, UNICEF estimates. Many girls who are forced to marry early give birth before age 17, and a high percentage are not in school and cannot read or write. Since 2014, Zonta International has supported a UNFPA project to delay early marriage in Niger. Girls receive a holistic program of services from mentors, including basic literacy training.

Please join us as we recognize International Literacy Day and mark achievements and reflect on ways to counter remaining challenges for promoting literacy as an integral part of lifelong learning. 




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

»Read her biography.