Globally, International Literacy Day is celebrated on September 08 every year. First proclaimed by UNESCO in 1965, the first International Literacy Day was celebrated on September 08, 1966.
Through this Day, UNESCO reminds the global countries of the status of literacy and adult learning. The theme for this year's International Literacy Day is "The Power of Literacy." This means that this year, the spotlight will be on the empowering role of literacy and its importance for participation, citizenship, and social development. Literacy and Empowerment is the theme for the 2009-2010 biennium of the United Nations Literacy Decade.
In January 2002, the United Nations General Assembly, through a resolution, proclaimed the ten-year period beginning 1 January 2003 as the United Nations Literacy Decade. According to the UN, in declaring the Decade, it aims to increase literacy levels and to empower all people everywhere and the international community recognized that the promotion of literacy is in the interest of all, as part of efforts towards peace, respect, and exchange in a globalizing world.
Despite many and varied efforts, the literacy figures across the world look alarming. According to UN statistics, there are close to four billion literate people in the world today and some 776 million adults lack minimum literacy skills, which means that one in five adults is still not literate; 75 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out.
About 35 countries have a literacy rate of less than 50% or a population of more than 10 million people who cannot read or write. 85% percent of the world's non-literate population resides in these countries, and two-thirds are women and girls.
The definition of literacy and a literate person according to UNESCO is wide and does not stop to mean the ability to read and write only. A literate person is one that can with understanding both reads and write a short simple statement relevant to his everyday life and capable of critical understanding of men's situation in the world.
Literacy is not an end in itself but a means of personal liberation and development and extending individuals' educational efforts involving overall interdisciplinary responses to concrete problems. Literacy is a way of acquiring skills to improve their economic status and general well-being and imbibing values of national integration, conservation of the environment, women's equality, observance of small family norms, etc.
Literacy is not just about learning it is an empowered tool to eradicate poverty and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy. Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality, and ensuring sustainable development, peace, and democracy.
There are good reasons why literacy is at the core of Education for All (EFA). A good quality basic education equips pupils with literacy skills for life and further learning. Literate parents are more likely to send their children to school. Literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities and literate societies are better geared to meet pressing development.
During the period of global economic slowdown, governments, and private players have to be cautious not to downplay the significance and importance of literacy programmers in their respective countries. Continuous funds flow has to be ensured along with efforts to continue the existing programmers and quicker launching of future initiatives should be considered. This calls for stringent laws to remove the bottlenecks and help the progress and success of literacy programmers.