Today is International Women’s Day.
It’s the perfect day to reflect on the progress women have made in the world, and to also reflect on what remains to be done.
The ability to read and write is something most of us take for granted. But it is a skill that is out of reach for millions of people, especially women and girls.
Just as we can eradicate diseases through vaccines and proper hygiene, we can eradicate illiteracy rapidly in the world- through focused and concerted action.
Literacy is a social vaccine that confers many benefits including: participation in the workforce; reduction of marginalization and associated psychological distress; reduction of risk of human trafficking; and improvement in the health of individuals and nations. It is also a proven pathway out of poverty.
Unfortunately, education is not viewed as “urgent” when it comes to various health and social agendas. It’s just not sexy. Thus it is not aggressively pursued in the same way politicians and other decision makers pursue the development of vaccines against infectious diseases.
However, education is crucial for good health and is one of the foundations for a strong society. Literacy falls under the rubric of “social determinants of health,” i.e. non-medical factors that have a significant impact on health and which can account for anywhere from 30-50% of health outcomes.
Women’s literacy is associated with reduced risk of violence in the family, reduced risk of trafficking and increased participation in civic and community activities.
When people, especially women and girls can read and write, individual lives are transformed. Families are transformed. And ultimately nations and our entire planet are transformed – for the better.
Some years ago, I was interviewed at Northwestern University in Chicago, following a talk, on how to eradicate female illiteracy, that I gave at a global health conference there. Here’s the link if you would like to read a bit more about this topic.
Those of us who can read and write are among the lucky and privileged.
Please consider joining me in making this basic human right accessible to all. In so doing, you will contribute toward: reducing dire poverty; ending the global epidemic of violence which affects one in every three women around the world; and reducing the risk of human trafficking which is occurring at sickeningly high numbers.
I’ve already developed a road map for eradicating female illiteracy in this world. I developed it during a fellowship at Stanford University and it’s been peer-reviewed by experts. Additionally, with help from a few students at Stanford, I developed and piloted an awareness and fundraising event that is ready for scaling across colleges and universities around the world.
What I lack are people to help me get the word out and mobilize support so we can rapidly eradicate female illiteracy, and through that, improve lives. Even just a few minutes of your time will make a difference – when you lend your voice to collective action.
If you have not already signed up for the mailing list, please do so. This way we can keep in touch and you can stay updated about next the steps.
I would also be grateful if you might consider inviting your friends to sign up and keep informed about this and other Prescriptions for Hope.
Together, we can eradicate female illiteracy.
I look forward to hearing from you, and look forward to the day when we will create a world where everyone, including women and girls everywhere will be able to read and write.
Dr. S.D. Shanti