President’s Post: International Literacy Day, 8 September 2017

Dear Soroptimists,

As our IPP Yvonne is an expert in education and feels very strong about literacy and education I thought it would be a good initiative to ask Yvonne to write about Literacy for the Literacy Day, today 8 September! I would like to thank Yvonne for this great contribution that I will download on my President’s Post as we still are both Presidents of SI and both work together in harmony.

Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, SI President

Soroptimists Educate to Lead

The Soroptimist International Theme until 2021 is “Educate to Lead”.  Soroptimists, active in 122 countries create or support projects that provide the greatest tool of empowerment – that of education. Of course, literacy is an important aspect of education that holds the key to realising one’s potential, and the focus of many projects is literacy.

The 51st International Literacy Day is being celebrated on 8th September, 2017 and is a forum to disseminate information on literacy and raise the public awareness and the significance of literacy for individual and national development. It provides an opportunity to foster SDGs agreed to by governments in 2015.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

There are 7 outcome Targets:

4.1 Quality primary/secondary education for all
4.2 Early childhood & pre-primary education
4.3 Equal access to TVET & higher education
4.4 Relevant skills for work
4.5 Gender equality & equal access for all
4.6 Youth and adult literacy
4.7 Global citizenship education for sustainability

Literacy in a digital world

The theme for International Literacy Day announced by UNESCO is `Literacy in a digital world’ and gives us the opportunity to explore how we can make progress with SDG 4 aided by technology and how the digital world demands literacy skills.

The mission of Soroptimist International is to transform the lives and status of women and girls through education, empowerment and enabling opportunities. More and more of those opportunities are connected to the digital world where literacy is key.

There are projects

  • Women are empowered to record their farming details electronically so that accurate data is available to forecast production. They can be provided with the electronic technology but without literacy they cannot contribute to the necessary information that will determine their futures. Literacy programmes address this need.
  • Utilising the internet to promote goods to a market beyond the immediate community assists women to be economically empowered.  Projects that teach literacy and computer skills support women to utilise this opportunity.
  • Primary and secondary education is key to girls to have a more positive future. A focus of some Soroptimist projects is to use digital technology to provide educational opportunities. Distance learning, provided on-line can bring education to areas of geographical inaccessibility. Educated girls are less likely to marry early, and more likely to have fewer children, and more likely to empower their children to gain an education. This cycle raises the standard of living and increases quality of life. Literacy enables them to communicate in the written form. Literacy in the digital world has increased importance.


A statement from UNESCO sums up the way literacy and digital technology intersect: “Digital technologies are fundamentally changing the way people live, work, learn and socialise everywhere. They are giving new possibilities to people to improve all areas of their lives including access to information; knowledge management; networking; social services; industrial production, and mode of work. However, those who lack access to digital technologies and the knowledge, skills and competencies required to navigate them, can end up marginalised in increasingly digitally driven societies. Literacy is one such essential skill.

Just as knowledge, skills and competencies evolve in the digital world, so does what it means to be literate. In order to close the literacy skills gap and reduce inequalities, this year’s International Literacy Day will highlight the challenges and opportunities in promoting literacy in the digital world, a world where, despite progress, at least 750 million adults and 264 million out-of-school children still lack basic literacy skills.

International Literacy Day is celebrated annually worldwide and brings together governments, multi- and bilateral organizations, NGOs, private sectors, communities, teachers, learners and experts in the field. It is an occasion to mark achievements and reflect on ways to counter remaining challenges for the promotion of literacy as an integral part of lifelong learning within and beyond the 2030 Education Agenda.”

Soroptimist International projects and advocacy work support the message of International Literacy Day 2017 in order to achieve a better world for women and girls.

Yvonne Simpson
Immediate Past President
Soroptimist International




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