Illiteracy Around the World

Literacy_3.1Allow me to start with a statistics-bomb. Here are some shocking female illiteracy rates around the world. Numbers provided by the CIA:

Afghanistan- 87.4%

Bhutan, Asia- 61.3%

Burkina Faso, Africa- 78.4%

Chad, Africa- 74.6%

Egypt- 34.2%

Ethiopia- 71.1%

Guinea, Africa- 70%

Haiti- 55.4%

India- 49.2%

Mali, Africa- 75.4%

Mozambique, Africa- 57.2%

Nepal- 53.3%

Niger, Africa- 84.9%

Pakistan- 59.7%

Sierra Leone- 67.4%

Somalia- 74.2%

South Sudan- 84%

Timor-Leste, Southeast Asia- 47%

Almost three-quarters of the world’s 775 million illiterate adults are found in only ten countries, and of all the illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds are women; extremely low literacy rates are concentrated in South and West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The worst out of that list is Afghanistan at a female illiteracy rate of 87%, closely followed by Niger and South Sudan in Africa.

Imagine standing in a room of 100 women, and 87 of them cannot read or write. This is deeply saddening.

Today, I read this article in the New York Times and it sparked my interest. Did you know that in Egypt, there is a non-governmental organization called the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women (ADEW), which aims to help low-income families headed by women?

Non-governmental… in Egypt!

The subject of the NY Times article is a woman from Egypt, a country with almost half of it’s women illiterate. She is a photographer, and had become involved with ADEW while taking pictures during one of their reading and writing classes.

One part of the article that struck me was a couple of quotes that read,

“Umm el-Saad, who was pregnant when they first met, smiled when Ms. Boushnak asked her how she liked the class. “She said, ‘Oh, my husband is threatening me to keep me at home,’ ” Ms. Boushnak recalled, “and I thought, ‘Oh, this must be one of those stories.’ When Ms. Boushnak returned five months later, her subject, holding her new baby girl, giggled. As it turned out, the woman’s husband had realized that she had learned how to read his text messages.”

Wow. Talk about empowering women. Could you imagine being threatened to stay at home?

Anyway, just a quick reminder that knowing how to read and write is very important, and one of the most fundamental human needs. Also, I know that the United States has its problems, but at least our literacy rate is 99% and all women know how to read and write.

So, today you should feel thankful that you were born in, or grew up in, a country that values literacy.

Good day.

[Originally published on Wollstonecrafty]


8 responses to “Illiteracy Around the World

  1. OMG women exist, and bad things exist, and the bad things happen to women sometimes……My head’s going to explode, who knew women actually exist.

    Really, what other kind of reaction did you expect. Ok, Afghanistan has a really low literacy rate. Talking about women women and only women does not make it a women’s problem. It makes it a problem with feminism. What are the male literacy rates in these countries. If you can’t show a discrepancy in literacy between men and women, but want to talk about women women and only women, your a sexist bigot.

    • Here are the illiteracy rates for men in each of the countries that I listed above:
      Afghanistan 56.9%
      Bhutan 35%
      Burkina Faso 63.3%
      Chad 54.4%
      Egypt 18.3%
      Ethiopia 50.9%
      Guinea 48%
      Haiti 46.6%
      India 24.8%
      Mali 56.9%
      Mozambique 29.2%
      Nepal 28.9%
      Niger 57.1%
      Pakistan 31.4%
      Sierra Leone 45.3%
      Somalia 50.3%
      South Sudan 60%
      Timor-Leste 36.4%
      As you can see, ALL of the countries have a lower illiteracy rate among men than among women. Still think it’s not a women’s issue?

      In these countries, women do not have the same opportunities as men, and education for women is not valued (with limited educational resources, the resources go to the men first).

      Talking about women’s issues doesn’t make me a man-hating feminist, if that’s what you’re getting at. I am an advocate of individual rights.

      • I know you don’t consider yourself a man-hating bigot. You are using the words and methods of man-hating bigots.

        It’s sorta sad that I’ve got to walk you step by step through actual logic and reason. Explain how to actual make a point.

        Wonderful. Now that you have the data for men and women, it should be presented side by side so that a comparison can be made more easily.

        Now that you have that data it’s time to ask some basic questions. What constitutes “literacy”. I expect that the one and only book many Afgani have ever seen is the Koran. Does having what the priest tells you it says memorized by heart count as literacy? How many of these places are at a tech level that still necessitates a gendered division of labor? How much of the litteracy differences can be better explained by class or region than by gender discrimination?

        If you want to make a point about gender discrimination, you must include both genders and examine counter evidence. If you just post how bad it is for women that is either bigotry or shrill histrionics. If you want to do real science it takes much more than feelings.

  2. genderneutrallanguage – Did you actually read the post? Here is a part you might have missed:

    “. . . and of all the illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds are women”

    This is a stark fact of reality. Can you offer any data to dispute this?
    Both men and women are oppressed in many parts of the world. Right now, the author is bringing attention to the illiteracy of women.

    As a man who has traveled extensively, including many of the places listed in this post, I have seen first-hand that women are treated as a lower class of human being in many parts of the world. Am I a bigoted man hater because of this fact?

    If you have a real counter argument to the content in the post then present it. The author doesn’t owe you anything. If you didn’t find the information you feel you deserve here then look for it somewhere else. Your constant attack against the blog author adds zero value to her, her blog, or her readers.

  3. Nonsensical is right. I show patience because I don’t want drama on my site. I want intelligent conversation. Hence, why I didn’t respond to the second comment.

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