Female Illiteracy – Ways You Can Help

Female Illiteracy – Ways You Can Help

Of the 781 million illiterate adults in the world in 2015, two-thirds of them were women. It’s a sad fact that although literacy is massively improving every year, specifically targeting literacy for women lags behind in that trend. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to end illiteracy for all by 2030. That’s just over 10 years! We have some serious work to do if we want to reach that ambitious goal. 

That’s not to say there hasn’t been enormous improvement in the enrolment of girls in school and literacy throughout the world. There is nearly universal enrolment for girls in primary education, from around 70 percent in 1990. Even globally the youth literacy rate has improved from 83 to 91 percent. We all know that literacy is a stepping stone to a more engaged populace and one more educated about important issues. But how can we improve specifically literacy? How do you combat illiteracy from your own hometown?  

Educate Yourself 

When trying to make change, the first and most important step is to be informed. That can mean looking up statistics of literacy rates and finding out exactly where efforts are needed. It can mean stepping out to a library or researching to find out why illiteracy is common, or what factors play into higher versus lower rate regions. Take your pick, but before trying to solve any large crisis – you need the facts. 

Donate Books and Volunteer  

Perhaps the first place you think of when considering illiteracy is someplace like Niger or Cameroon, but illiteracy exists everywhere. It could very well be in your own neighbourhood or town. The easiest way to step forward and go to your local book donation centre or library. Ask if help is needed and how you can donate either books, financial support or time towards fighting illiteracy in your local community.  

If there’s not a local initiative, make your own! Don’t let yourself be dissuaded by the simple fact that there’s not yet a framework for you to step into. Create your own book donation drive and reach out to at-risk communities to find out the most effective way you can help. Most of the time, these people know the best ways for you to help.  


If you were taught the ability to read and write from a young age as I was, it can be almost impossible to imagine what living without those abilities would be like. Think about how what reading means to you, and continue to use that gift by educating yourself further.  

On a personal note, reading is such an incredibly important part of my life and as I start to research more into how literacy is spread across the globe – I am struck with one fact. Although illiteracy rates are higher in poorer countries, rich countries struggle with this problem too. Exciting initiatives exist all over the world, and what works in one country may work in another. It’s worth experimenting.  

Illiteracy in women isn’t an issue that will easily go away. It will take time to reach out to communities and explain why it’s so important to be literate. It will take time to encourage governments to fund literacy efforts. These kinds of changes don’t happen overnight. But little by little through asking for change and putting in the time, you can create a difference even if universal literacy in 13 years seems daunting.  


Written by Gabriella Gricius