Long-term change through integrated approaches: International Literacy Day 2018

Aug 20, 2018

International Literacy Day, on the 8th September, has been celebrated around the world since 1967 to raise awareness and remind us of the importance of literacy in our lives. Because literacy means so much more than being able to read and write.

Pictured: Sunita, who participated in our Community Health Project in Nepal

Literacy gives us the tools we need to earn an income, to learn about our human rights, to communicate with family and friends and to learn about life-saving health information. Really, it is a fundamental part of our daily lives, especially in an ever-evolving digital world.

This makes it even harder to believe there are still around 750 million adults around the world who have no basic literacy skills, with two thirds of them being women. They are among the most vulnerable and marginalised people in communities that are often already poor; facing an even greater risk of being left behind in an ever-changing world.

We can’t stand by and let this continue. Especially because we know that among many things, literacy helps people to lift themselves out of poverty and allows them to learn about their health and the health of their children.

This is why today, we wanted to focus on the link between literacy and health to help raise awareness. Just think about all the times you’ve read anything about your health, from things like eating a nutritious diet, to recognising symptoms that need urgent medical attention, or reading what dose of medication to take.

Health education and literacy go hand in hand, which is why our health projects include an element of literacy skills training as well. For example, our project in Nepal, supported by Big Lottery Fund, focused on giving 5,000 women and adolescent girls literacy skills and life-saving health knowledge, as well as vocational skills to increase their incomes.

This integrated approach, which you can read more about in the theme for this year’s International Literacy Day, really does ensure more long-term change: with new literacy and vocational skills, as well as health knowledge, the women we supported can now continue their learning and also improve the quality of their whole families’ lives.

Take Sunita, for example, who had no literacy skills before she took part in our project. She learnt to read and write health information, and as a result her life has significantly changed. She no longer feels scared and embarrassed to go to the hospital; she can now go confidently, taking her ticket and knowing which room to go to. She’s also been able to start using her phone as she can read and write, so she can communicate more with family and friends.

Sunita told us how the most important thing she learnt was about recognising symptoms in her children that need medical attention, as well as ensuring they get nutritious diets.
Additionally, with the livelihoods skills support she received as part of the project, she plans on starting a small goat farming enterprise to support her family. The increased income will help her and her family have a healthier and improved quality of life.

This is a perfect example of how integrated approaches can really make such a long-term difference to those who need it the most.

If you would like to read more about our work in Nepal, please take a look at our summary of the end of project external evaluation here. Or, if you haven’t already done so, watch our video below.


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