UNLD Topics

In order to demonstrate the multiple uses and value of literacy, the Decade adopted five biennial themes, which have been the focus for particular advocacy efforts:


  • Literacy and Gender, 2003-2004
  • Literacy and Sustainable Development, 2005-2006
  • Literacy and Health, 2007-2008
  • Literacy and Empowerment, 2009-2010
  • Literacy and peace, 2011-2012


 Literacy and empowerment is the 2009/2010 theme of the UNLD, identified as one of the themes requiring special attention during the Decade and linked to international initiatives and goals, including the MDGs and EFA goals.

The empowering role of literacy and numeracy acquisition is widely recognized, and has become central to the concept of literacy which increasingly reflects context, use of skills, demands and aspirations of individual learners in their communities and societies in the rapidly changing globalized world.

Research unanimously points towards literacy as an empowering force which serves to increase self-confidence and assertiveness and helps to build a sense of personal competence and independence together with better awareness of one’s rights. Literacy gives enhanced autonomy to individuals in both the family and community context. These human benefits give rise to consequences of significance for women, thanks to the enabling and transformative impact of literacy on their lives, and for society as a whole.

In this era of widening disparities, literacy brings not only greater self-esteem but also opportunities to those who have been disenfranchised, marginalized and neglected: neo-literates acquire greater capacity and skills to raise their income levels, build sustainable livelihoods, gain access to health and educational services, and engage in the public arena. Thus, the self-esteem generated by literacy skills facilitates social and political participation and is, in fact, associated with greater interest in national and community activities, influencing attitudes and practices in the political sphere.

UNESCO is a strong advocate for the extraordinary power of literacy in equipping individuals to participate more actively and more effectively in their community and society.

Conceived as a process of lifelong learning, literacy acquisition does not automatically translate into empowerment but the connections are strong, especially when literacy acquisition incorporates livelihood skills, community-building skills, etc. The understanding of literacy as an empowering instrument impacts on the formulation of literacy policies, strategies and on programme planning.

For literacy to have an empowering role, efficient literacy programmes need to be highly content relevant, integrated with skills training, sustained by literate environments and connected to opportunities of community, cultural, social, economic and political involvement.

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