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Malala Yousafzai raising the literacy of women and girls

04 September 2018

About 263 million children and youth are out of school, according to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). The statistics include, for the first time, an estimate of those of upper secondary age.

According to the global average, 15 to 17-year-olds are four times more likely not to be in school than children between the ages of 6-11. Part of the reason for the jump is in the fact that primary and lower secondary education is compulsory in nearly every country - upper secondary school is not. At the same time, these youth are often of legal working age. Many have no choice but to work while others try to combine going to school with employment.

Girls still more likely than boys never to go to school

According to UIS data, 15 million girls of primary-school age will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school. Every day, children, and especially girls, face barriers to education caused by poverty, cultural norms and practices, poor infrastructure, violence, social and community fragility.

In Cambodia, two Australians, Julie and Geoff Dowse run AusCam Freedom Project. The charity’s mission is to change educational outcomes for girls, ‘one girl at a time’. 

Ex-footballer Luke Ricketson is Julie’s brother. He and another ex-footballer Jason Stevens run the Mate Project which fundraises for the AusCam Freedom Project, among other organisations.

In 2015 AusCam Freedom Project made an award winning film - Sophea’s Dream – charting the life of one Cambodian girl. The film follows Sophea and her dream to build a better future. It also features AusCam’s work to empower girls, such as Sophea, through education in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Later this year (10 DECEMBER and 11 DECEMBER, to be precise) one of the world’s most famous campaigners for the rights of girls to receive an education will be speaking in Sydney and Melbourne.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai (above) grew up in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan with her parents and two brothers. From the age of 10, she campaigned for the rights of girls to receive an education. In 2012, when she was 15 years old, Malala was targeted and shot by Taliban members while traveling home from school on the bus with her friends. Her survival and continuing work fighting for children’s rights to education made her the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which she received in 2014.

Ruby is proud to be an Alliance Partner for this event with Malala. Brought to Australia by The Growth Faculty, the two evenings with Malala continue the organisation’s long tradition of bringing top-name speakers – Hillary Clinton, George Clooney, Malcolm Gladwell, for example  – to this country.

A couple of prompts around literacy

September 5 marks Indigenous Literacy Day. Only 34 percent of Year 5 Indigenous children in remote communities are at or above national minimum reading standards compared to 95 percent of non-Indigenous children in major cities.

Reading opens doors. Currently, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation supports 250 remote Indigenous communities in closing the literacy gap and is running the Fill Your Bookshelf campaign to get 30,000 books to 250 remote Indigenous communities.

To help, visit and sign up.

UNESCO’s World Literacy Day is 8 September. The purpose of the day is to combat illiteracy and to promote literacy as a tool that can empower individuals as well as whole communities. As of 2016, according to UNESCO, about 775 million adults lack even the most basic, minimum literacy skills all over the world. About 20 percent of all people are not literate. Of that 20 percent, about 66 percent of those are women.


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