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Majority of World's Illiterate Women Live in West Africa

From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

A United Nations agency estimates that 516 million of the world's women cannot read and write. The UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, says programs are needed to help illiterate women learn although they are past school age. Women make up two-thirds of all illiterate adults. The majority of these women live in West Africa. Many girls in that area never go to school. But in Liberia, a new education program is giving women in their 30s, 40s and 50s another chance to learn to read and write.

Pauline Rose heads UNESCO's worldwide monitoring report on Education for All. She says being illiterate causes huge problems in daily life. She notes situations like not being able to read directions on a medicine bottle or the number on a bus. Ms. Rose says illiteracy affects not only the women but also their families, because women are often the main caregivers of children. She says, when women are illiterate, they are less likely to use health services.

Some countries, like Senegal, have improved women's literacy rates through government efforts. They tell more girls in primary school and community programs about the importance of education. But there are still many nations where less than one in four women can read and write. They include Niger, Benin, Mali and Burkina Faso. Ms. Rose says these countries need literacy programs that target women. Liberia, for example, has launched a second-chance literacy campaign to teach women. Liberia's Ministry of Education says 5,000 women currently study in adult literacy programs across the country.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Alex Villarreal.