Literacy Leave No Woman Behind
Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all is pointed in the recently declared Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To have literacy and a sustainable society, SDG declaration is a must. Target 4.6 of SDGs says to ensure achieve literacy and numeracy by all youth and at least by a reasonable percent of adults, both men and women by 2030. Bangladesh has made significant progress in terms of adult literacy over the last 27 years. The MDGs targets have helped prioritize literacy among women by directing public funds to expand schooling opportunities for girls especially. Besides, literacy rates among youth (aged 15-24) and adults are the sign of the educational system of a country.
According to UNESCO, female youth literacy jumped from 60 percent to 79 percent between 2000 and 2010 and currently this literacy rate is 95 percent in Bangladesh. Even girls outnumbered boys in primary and secondary schooling though formal schooling is the most critical institution for obtaining literacy skills in rural Bangladesh where many children face obstacles, hardships and challenges in many forms and especially party and child marriage.
Globally more than 780 million adults are unable to read and write of which two thirds are women and half of all women in sub Saharan Africa are illiterate. In both the sub Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, the poorest young women are six times less likely to be able to even read than the richest. It is shocking that globally 496 million women are illiterate. In Bangladesh 70.09 percent women are reported to be literate according to Government records.
This loss of literacy is a particular risk for women in the developing countries, so in Bangladesh. Environment in which women can acquire and retain literacy skills is also shaped by various forms of social restrictions and norms. Majority of Bangladeshi women opt to have a life of being out of work and spend most of their lives as homemakers only. This creates such a condition where literacy skills can be lost which in turn creates a new form of vulnerability for them and in having a sustaining literacy directly or indirectly.
Functional illiteracy can undermine a voice and agency among adolescent girls and women, which exposes them to various forms of violence. Early marriage is one of the most focused ones for example. Though nationwide female stipend program has been going on by the Government, the satisfactory female literacy rate is yet to achieve in the country.
Economic opportunities for women have been increasing in Bangladesh with the expansion of readymade garments industry sector and other work fields. Microfinance schemes of loan giving programs in the rural areas are also empowering women which are giving a set up of micro entrepreneurs for women. But scope of paid jobs for secondary school graduate women is still limited in the country, which is making them vulnerable to such situations where literacy can't be retained. The poor quality of secondary schools makes it particularly hard to retain literacy in post school years.
In the absence of functional literacy millions of women in Bangladesh are exposed to many forms of violence and insecurity. Besides, it is at all not possible to sustain the process of social development without functionally literate mothers which is true for our country also. Women's literacy is critical to attain in SDG-5 which says of achieving gender equality and women & girls empowerment but Bangladesh is trying hard and providing very positive outcome in achieving this target particularly.
As the country enters the post 2015 era of SDGs, we must ensure that our schools should impart literacy skills which will sustain in post school years. This should go with the notion of 'lifelong learning' for all - children, youth and adults irrespective of their level of schooling completed.
In addition, efforts to create jobs for women must go alongside government's initiatives. Through these initiatives it is tried to ensure that, the rural schools would provide a minimum level of literacy skills that may sustain over time. In the light of this initiatives like empowering and providing sustaining literacy can be taken particularly targeting the women who are graduate but not economically active, rather constrained at home due to different traditional social norms and their mental makeup.
ICT access should be explored and exploited at its best to facilitate these women to promote a literacy and reading practice friendly environment though there prevails a wide range of gap in internet usage even at the national level not to mention the rural perspective. It is true that huge progress has been brought to ICT sector for all and especially for the rural people in using and exploring internet.
Sustainable development is impossible in the post 2015 era without having improved literacy. And schooling will mean nothing without it as it is needed for establishing empowerment. To achieve the SDGs and make it a success, we all need to have to work accordingly SDG targets and implement sincerely our awareness, true will and active participation at the maximum height. Our cumulative efforts can do it and can make it a success for sure.