By Emma Lightowlers, Communications Manager, 28 Too Many.
Today is International Literacy Day and as a Communications Manager, literacy is something that obviously comes high up on my agenda. But literacy really is something that should be on everyone´s agenda because, astonishingly, over 750 million people in the world are illiterate, two-thirds of them women.
Our research into female genital mutilation (FGM) often throws up facts about literacy – for example, educated mothers are less likely to support their daughters having FGM, a crucial step in breaking the cycle of this harmful practice. Girls with no or little education are also more likely to undergo FGM in many countries and, for many girls, FGM can mean the end of their education. These facts are all things we need to change and this is the reason why we support Project Literacy – education and literacy affect all aspects of life, including FGM.
But it is not only girls at risk of FGM who benefit from education - it is also a vital component in our work to end FGM. When people don´t have education and are illiterate, they are often denied access to information about FGM and other health risks, and we are working to change this by engaging with communities to educate about FGM and look at how, together, we can end it.
One of the projects we are working on is a partnership with a great charity called 'Cricket without Boundaries’, who use sport to educate young people in Africa about HIV and FGM. Yesterday I heard that since the project started, not only has there been an increase in the number of girls staying in school, but there has also been an increase in the number of schools involved in anti-FGM training and vitally, in providing a safe environment for girls at risk of FGM. Without education, none of this would be possible, and literacy gives us the strong foundations we need in our work to end FGM.
For International Literacy Day 2016, Project Literacy are asking people to ‘make’ a pencil with a message of support. Have a look here at their website for details of this, and other ideas of how you can help .
YOU can read this, but millions of others can´t. Help those 750+ million people by doing something positive today and supporting us and the others who are working to make a change.