International Literacy Day, celebrated on September 8, focuses this year on ‘Literacy for peace,’ reinforcing the clear role for literacy in peace-building that was identified in the 2011 EFA Global Monitoring Report, The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education.
The report showed that education can be a powerful force for peace, and that what people are taught, how they are taught and how education systems are organized can make countries more or less prone to violence.
International Literacy Day is a reminder that the global literacy challenge remains. According to the most recent statistics, 793 million adults around the world – 1 in 6 – can neither read nor write.
In keeping with the theme of International Literacy Day, the 2011 UNESCO international literacy prizes, awarded on September 8 in New Delhi, recognize projects that tap into literacy’s power to build peace, in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United States.
One of the two projects awarded a UNESCO Confucius Prize for literacy has helped to bring peace to one of the world’s most conflict-ridden areas, North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Collectif Alpha UJUVI was recognized for its programme Literacy for the Peaceful Coexistence of Communities and Good Governance. While the programme has existed for many years, since 2006 it has brought together literacy, peace education and traditional conflict-resolution techniques to promote dialogue and cooperation among North Kivu’s six territories.
The programme specifically targets women – who suffer particularly in conflict zones – aiming to improve their status and help involve them in their community’s decision-making processes and conflict resolution.
As well as the UNESCO International Literacy prize ceremony, New Delhi will host an international conference on Women’s Literacy for Inclusive and Sustainable Development, organized by UNESCO’s E9 initiative, from September 8 to 10.