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September 8, 2023 1:01 PM IST

World Literacy Day: Bridging the knowledge gap and building sustainable societies

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International Literacy Day is observed every year on September 8 across the globe to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society.

The Roots

The roots of International Literacy Day trace back to the World Conference of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy, held in Tehran, Iran, in 1965. This conference sparked the idea of a day dedicated to promoting literacy on a global scale. Subsequently, UNESCO officially declared September 8 as International Literacy Day during its 14th General September 8, 1967, the world celebrated this special day for the first time, marking the beginning of a significant global observance.

The Theme: Promoting Literacy for a World in Transition

Every year, International Literacy Day revolves around a theme that encapsulates the essence of its mission. In 2023, the theme is ‘Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies.’ This theme emphasizes the role of literacy in addressing the evolving global landscape and its contribution to Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) on education and lifelong learning.

Celebrating Literacy as a Human Right

World Literacy Day serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring significance of literacy as a fundamental human right and a means to enhance human dignity. This global observance, initiated by UNESCO in 1966, brings people worldwide together to advocate for literacy, raise awareness about its critical role, and promote strategies to create more literate and sustainable societies.

A Stark Reality: The Global Literacy Challenge

In our age of enlightenment, technology, and modern living, it is astonishing that nearly 800 million adults across the globe lack even the most basic literacy skills. This staggering statistic underscores the urgent need to address the global literacy challenge. International Literacy Day stands as a beacon, shining light on this issue and inspiring collective action to combat it.

UNESCO’s Global Celebration

International Literacy Day is celebrated by UNESCO on a global scale, with events taking place at various levels—global, regional, country, and local. In 2023, a significant global conference will convene both in person and online in Paris, France. This global celebration, as per the official website, will comprise the UNESCO International Literacy Prizes award ceremony announcing this year’s outstanding winning programmes. This event will serve as a platform for discussions, sharing of insights, and recognition of outstanding literacy programs through the UNESCO International Literacy Prizes.

A Journey of Over Five Decades

The roots of International Literacy Day trace back to UNESCO’s general conference on October 26, 1966, when the day was officially established. Its first celebration occurred in 1967, marking the beginning of an annual tradition. This day serves to underscore the immense value of literacy for individuals, communities, and society as a whole. Literacy is the pathway to a well-educated and efficient society, and it remains as relevant today as it was over five decades ago.

Unlocking the Power of Literacy

In a world driven by knowledge and information, literacy is the key to unlocking human potential. It empowers individuals, enabling them to access education, make informed decisions, and participate actively in their communities. Beyond personal benefits, literacy contributes to the enrichment of global culture and the advancement of societies. International Literacy Day stands as a testament to the transformative power of literacy, reminding us that together, we can bridge the knowledge gap and build sustainable, peaceful, and inclusive societies for all.

To sum it up, International Literacy Day serves as a rallying point for individuals, communities, and nations to come together in the pursuit of a more literate and equitable world. It is a day to reflect on the challenges that persist, celebrate the progress made, and renew our commitment to promoting literacy as a catalyst for positive change.

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Last updated on: 3rd March 2024