Definition of Illiterate

The box shown above was taken from a report I found titled The World’s Women 2010: Trends and Statistics. I wanted to make certain that everyone knew how the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defined the terms illiterate and literate.

According to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “2/3 of the 774 million adult illiterates worldwide are women” (43). This number is quite shocking and just goes to show the continued disadvantages that women still face worldwide.

The chart below shows how the number of illiterate women declined from about 549 to 496 million, which is roughly a 10% decline; however, this should have decreased more since we are in the 21st century and women have advanced heavily since the feminist movement. Most of the illiterate population occurs in the less developed regions such as South-Central Asia, which accounts for ¾ of women who are illiterate and sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for over half of the total (United Nations, 44). Women in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are being denied the right to be educated and this is the primary reason why the region of South-Central Asia has such a high number of women who are illiterate (250 million) (United Nations, 45). However, even for Europe to have 3.2 million women who are illiterate just goes to show that governments worldwide need to work together to show and promote a stronger “political and financial commitment and attach more weight to literacy in national planning” (United Nations, 45). Women are important to the development of our world and governments cannot turn away and deny women their rights to education. What is rather interesting, as is clearly shown on the chart below, is that men have a lower number than women for being illiterate. This demonstrates how women worldwide are still at a disadvantage when compared to men.

Number of adult illiterate women



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