Women across the globe with low literacy face many challenges every single day. From child brides and incarceration to poverty and sex trafficking, many of these issues can be lessened and resolved through literacy. These are the challenges:

Child Bride-01

Child Brides

Did you know that 1 in 3 girls in the developing world are married before 18, and 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15?
Child marriage effectively ends a girl’s childhood, curtails her education, minimizes her economic opportunities, increases her risk of domestic violence, and puts her at risk for very high-risk pregnancies.
According to UNESCO, if all women had primary school education, child marriages would drop by 1/6. Also, research suggests that approximately 78,400 children in the U.S. today are or have been married. Improved literacy can help end this cycle of lessened opportunity for child brides.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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Sex Trafficking

Did you know that over half of sex trafficked women and children have little to no literacy skills?
Not being able to read or write makes them more vulnerable targets who cannot protect themselves, especially in underdeveloped countries.
Evidence suggests that these victims have a greater prevalence of illiteracy, homelessness, poverty, and societal isolation. Sex trafficked women tend to have fewer resources, limited options, and increased vulnerability to violence and abuse than women who are not trafficked. Learning to read and write can help reduce their vulnerability, which will ultimately reduce sex trafficking.
Sources – 6, 7

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Infectious Disease

Did you know that literacy makes women five times more likely to prevent and stop the spread of infectious diseases, and to seek medical help when they need it?
During the 2015 Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization operatives in West Africa found illiteracy to be one of the major barriers to educating people on how to contain the disease.
Additionally, women with low literacy are often at elevated risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and AIDS. Gaining literacy can protect women’s health.
Sources: 8, 9

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Did you know that one additional year in school can increase a woman's earnings by 10 percent to 20 percent over a lifetime?
If everyone could gain literacy, 171 million people would be lifted out of poverty. More than half would be women. Illiteracy locks communities into vicious cycles of poverty that lead to violence and conflict. Many girls in impoverished countries don’t finish their education because they must work to help their families or they get married at a young age. Poverty is produced and reproduced when women who were not able to complete their education are pushed into welfare-to-work programs and denied education.
Sources: 6, 10, 11, 12



Did you know that inmates who improve their literacy skills are 43 percent less likely to return to prison?
Of the 2.2 million people currently incarcerated, 714,000 are women. Many of these women leave prison ill-prepared—they are unable to communicate, fill out job applications, or find housing. Seventy-five percent of state prison inmates did not complete high school or have low to no literacy skills—close to half being women. Research shows that teaching women in prison to read and write gives them hope and opportunity.
Sources: 5, 6

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Infant Mortality

Did you know that infant mortality decreases 9 percent for every year of education a woman attains?
Infant mortality rates drop significantly for women who have completed some form of education, and even more for those who complete secondary school. This is because girls and women are able to educate themselves on health issues, which can help reduce the cycle of poverty and infant mortality rates in the long term.
Sources: 15

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Child Labor

Did you know that gaining literacy skills can help people keep their children out of child labor?
Parents with little to no literacy skills send their children to work instead of school because they do not see the value of education. And once in the labor force, the children stay there. The lack of accessible, affordable, and good quality schooling can also act as a push factor for children to take up work. Labor at an early age impedes a child’s ability to go to school and learn. Gaining literacy skills can help many people, especially single mothers, keep their children out of child labor and away from missing out on an education.
Sources: 16



Did you know that one in three women are victims of physical or sexual violence, and literacy can help to break the cycle of violence?
According to the World Women Report, around two-thirds of female victims who faced violence or death did so at the hands of an intimate partner or family member. Women with low education find themselves defenseless and voiceless, and have less “bargaining power” in their families, which potentially leads to domestic violence. The report found that around 60 percent of all female survivors did not report the crime or seek support. Those who did report turned to family or friends rather than police. Literacy can break the cycle of violence in women’s lives.
Sources: 17

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Gender Equality

Did you know that less than 40 percent of countries provide girls and boys with equal access to education?
Additionally, only 39 percent of countries have equal proportions of boys and girls enrolled in secondary education. Being literate would help 500 million women gain confidence and achieve social and economic independence. Literacy can help create equality between men and women.

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Genital Mutilation

Did you know that in parts of Africa, more than 80 percent of women who had suffered female genital mutilation had low literacy skills?
Every 15 seconds a girl has her genitals cut. She will live with that trauma for the rest of her life.
The Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) operation is forced on approximately 6,000 girls per day, worldwide—about one every 15 seconds. FGM is often practiced when the girls are young, when they are incapable of giving their informed consent.
Impacting the literacy levels of the mothers would help. Sources: 18



Did you know that breaking the cycle of illiteracy and improving self-esteem is crucial for women’s empowerment?
By enabling women and girls to become economically productive and independent, they become empowered and can take control of their lives with paying jobs, homeownership, and other forms of independence. Obtaining an education is essential to helping them contribute to their societies.
Sources: 15


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