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[O]ne in four young people—175 million adolescents—is unable to read a single sentence. Based on current trends, [...] it will take until 2072 for the poorest young women in developing countries to learn to read.


Two girls reading a newspaper.

Literacy is the ability to read and write. Access to facilities that provide basic literacy is a human right. Being literate implies basic-level proficiency in the use of the written form of a language.

Lack of access to education is a highly intersectional and global phenomenon that affects women more than men, and the developing world more than the West. "Almost two-thirds of the world’s 781 million illiterate adults are women, with no progress in reducing this share since 1990."[1] Ensuring education for women has direct and indirect impact on every other member of society, as well as benefiting the goals of sustainable development.[1]

Unfortunately, even developed nations fail to deliver literacy to their socio-economic and ethnic minorities. For example, "almost all students from rich households [in New Zealand] achieve minimum learning standards in grades 4 and 8, but only two-thirds of poor students do[, and] in France, [...] fewer than 60 per cent of immigrants have reached the minimum benchmark for reading."[1]

Human rights

See the main article on this topic: Human rights

The right to education, of which literacy is a core component, is a human right, as per Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.[2]

See also