September 08, 2014
The theme of this year’s International Literacy Day, celebrated worldwide on September 8, is “Literacy & Sustainable Development”. Literacy, needless to say, is the key to achieving major outcomes in the social, economic and environmental areas which are the three main pillars of sustainable development. Empowering individuals and equipping them with the right skills, literacy is the most powerful element in creating a society that is productive, equitable, empowered and hence sustainable.
However, with illiteracy plaguing 781 million adults and 126 million youths in the world, the goal of sustainable development becomes difficult to focus on. Moreover, with two-third of this number comprising women, the gender disparity in society also becomes a major challenge thus creating stumbling blocks in both poverty alleviation and Education for All (EFA).
As explained through the Global March Triangular Paradigm, the elimination of child labour, Education for All (EFA) and poverty alleviation are inter-connected global goals that require a unified response. The need of the hour is to not just create opportunities for Education for All (EFA) but also focus on the quality of learning in order to enable children and youth to acquire basic foundation skills in reading, writing and mathematics.
Speaking on the occasion of International Literacy Day, Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson, Global March, observed, “One out of nine people in this world cannot read or even understand this sentence in any language. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without knowledge and respect for ecology and society. In my own experience, we come across thousands of men, women and children entrapped in slavery due to mere illiteracy. Their thumb impressions taken by ruthless traffickers and greedy employers on blank papers lead to inter-generational bondage and servitude. How does one think of sustainable development when there are 21 million people including 5.5 million children without freedom and a future? On the other hand, it is only through addressing social and environmental concerns through education in the rights perspective that we can truly progress towards sustainable development."
As the world celebrates International Literacy Day, we need to be especially mindful of the needs of the 5.5 million children who are in forced labour across the world and may never have the opportunity for a better future ahead. It is only through the inclusion of groups of children like this into mainstream society that the world can focus on sustainable development by fostering values and ideas that are just and inclusive.