International Literacy Day – 2023

International Literacy Day, celebrated on September 8th, is highly significant as it not only raises awareness about the importance of reading and writing, but also discusses and proposes possible alternatives to make literacy accessible to everyone in the world.

The literacy of children, youth, and adults can significantly change the socioeconomic trajectory of a country, as the greater an individual’s access to all that reading offers, the greater their chances of securing better opportunities in the job market and, consequently, a higher quality of life and access to new paths.

“Literacy is one of humanity’s major achievements, a driving force for the conscious exercise of citizenship and social development. Knowing how to read and write is a human right; it broadens one’s view of the world and contributes to the formation of a fairer and more equitable society,” points out humanitarian servant Francisca Santana, who, among other activities, worked on the literacy project for Venezuelan migrants and refugees developed by the Fraternity – International Humanitarian Missions (FIHM) in Roraima.

Map of Inequality

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, estimates that 773 million people are illiterate in the world, with 63% of them being women without basic reading and writing skills. This number includes 102 million young people aged 15 to 24, of which 57% are female.

Literacy is the foundation of education, a human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). However, it is still a distant reality for many people who face difficulties in learning to read and write due to social inequalities, various prejudices, gender disparities, and cultural taboos.

In addition to presenting a kind of map of inequality, literacy rates in Brazil and around the world indicate the trend that poorer regions have a higher number of illiterate people. Consequently, this rate is higher in the world’s poorest region: Sub-Saharan Africa. Some studies show that countries in the region have very poor literacy rates. Overall, only 66% of the entire population of Sub-Saharan Africa is literate.

In Brazil, the Northeast region has the highest number of illiterate people, with a 13.9% illiteracy rate. The North region has an illiteracy rate of 7.6%, the Midwest has 4.9%, and the South and Southeast regions have a 3.3% illiteracy rate.

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Education and Literacy in Emergency Situations and Humanitarian Responses

In humanitarian crises, the human right to education becomes even more critical, especially when we consider that half of migrants and refugees are children and young people.

Access to quality education is associated with the protection of these individuals and allows for positive long-term social returns, while low levels of access can make them more vulnerable and susceptible to violence and situations of conflict.

Through projects in the field of education, the Fraternity – Humanitarian Missions (FIHM) encourages continuous educational processes and practices for children, young people, and adults in different regions of the world where humanitarian missions are carried out.

“Each region has its own history and uniqueness. Some contexts are much more complex than others. Therefore, the response through the Education Department of the Fraternity – Humanitarian Missions (FIHM) is contextualized according to the differentiated needs that each location presents, with one of the main objectives being to provide each young person, child, or adult with the possibility to express themselves as fully as possible,” explains the humanitarian volunteer Sister Rosa, who has worked on education projects in the Roraima Humanitarian Mission and the Angola Humanitarian Mission.

“The discovery of new capacities in themselves through various art education activities allows these individuals to reframe traumas, overcome challenges, and practice essential values. Through the interventions in the state of Roraima, Brazil, and in Angola, it was possible to witness this transformation process in many children and young people, both in their attitudes and in the reflections they brought. When they allow themselves to engage in and experience the activities, all the great potential that each one carries within emerges in a very surprising way, and this motivates them to set important goals for their lives,” adds Sister Rosa.

Inclusive Education

Access to education and the right to learning, including literacy, are universal rights recognized in numerous international instruments and treaties that encompass the Right to Education Framework. The diversity of experiences, abilities, contexts, and learning capacities is a reality that should be celebrated through equitable and inclusive educational practices.

The Fraternity – Humanitarian Missions (FIHM) promotes actions that respect human rights and dignity, centering its development on inclusive practices and humanitarian assistance that encompass all individuals in their different realities and conditions.

Humanitarian member Blanca Noemi shares her experiences in inclusive education projects developed by the Fraternity – Humanitarian Missions (FIHM):

“I had the opportunity to volunteer in two humanitarian missions: in Roraima and currently in Carmo de Cachoeiras-MG, and in both, interventions are sought to reduce the barriers of segregation, promoting the creation of safe learning spaces based on the Minimum Standards for Education in Emergency Situations developed by the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), of which the Fraternity – Humanitarian Missions (FIHM) is the Focal Point in Brazil and Portugal.”

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“Anything that can reduce the barriers of separateness in human consciousness should be encouraged and supported by society. We tend to separate when something reflects ignorance and loss of control. Disability has occupied a taboo place in societies (we don’t like to talk about it), thus confirming segregation, stigmatization, and prejudice. Some social groups have progressed in this regard by removing architectural barriers and adapting communication systems for everyone. Organizations like the Fraternity – Humanitarian Missions (FIHM) support inclusion and promote human rights so that everyone has access to dignified and quality care, as well as support to meet their individual needs,” emphasizes Blanca.

A Better Life for All

Mastering the written form of a language is the key for children, young people, men, and women to overcome the barriers of ignorance and misinformation. This will enable them to become critical individuals capable of writing their own stories. Through knowledge, we can have more hope that it is possible to reduce social injustices, positively and decisively changing the lives of millions of people around the world.

Learn more about the activities that the Education Department of the Fraternity – Humanitarian Missions (FIHM) carries out in different regions of the world:

Roraima Humanitarian Mission

Angola Humanitarian Mission

Turkey Humanitarian Mission