Literacy is a right. It is implicit in the right to education. It is recognized as a right, explicitly for both children and adults, in certain international conventions. It is included in key international declarations. The rationale for recognizing literacy as a right is the set of benefits it confers on individuals, families, communities and nations. Indeed, it is widely reckoned that, in modern societies, literacy skills are fundamental to informed decision-making, personal empowerment, active and passive participation in local and global social community.
Helping someone to read and write effectively improves the future of everyone in society. Literacy is critical to economic development as well as individual and community well-being. Our economy is enhanced when learners have higher literacy levels. Effective literacy skills open the doors to more educational and employment opportunities so that people are able to pull themselves out of poverty and chronic underemployment.
From an individual perspective, one needs adequate literacy skills to participate and function happily within – and contribute to – one’s communities.
From a collective perspective, a literate community is a dynamic community; a community that exchanges ideas, engages in dialogue is more innovative and productive. The sharing of ideas, perspectives and concerns also leads to greater levels of mutual understanding and caring, and ultimately strong community spirit.
Poor literacy can lead to the risk of exclusion for some individuals and some social groups.
Literacy is the first step towards freedom, towards liberation from social and economic constraints. It is the prerequisite for development, both individual and collective. It reduces poverty and inequality, creates wealth, and helps to eradicate problems of nutrition and public health. – Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay.