Spanish project wins UNESCO Literacy Prize for promoting integration and women’s empowerment

The Foundation Elche Acoge from Spain has been awarded one of the two prestigious 2018 UNESCO Confucius Prizes for Literacy for its programme ‘Spanish as a second language for adult immigrants’.

The Foundation Elche Acoge, located in Elche in the Valencian Community in Spain, began its project in 1994 in the face of the growing influx of immigrants. They realized that learning the Spanish language was key to living together, for a successful social integration and for employment opportunities of the newcomers.

The cost-free education is structured through innovatory trainings that promote active citizenship and integration, in order to provide the immigrants with tools and resources that favour labour market insertion.

The programme combines Spanish classes with courses and workshops that consist of basic computing, citizens' rights and duties, knowledge of the city, active citizenship, insight into leisure activities and cultural visits.

María Ballester Cerezo, Senior Project Manager at the Elche Acoge Foundation, said that the award will give visibility to the reality of the many people who arrive in a country where an unknown language prevents them from fully integrating in society. 

“Literacy and language teaching is a socio-educational action which is continued and sustained over time,” she said. “An action to compensate for inequalities that will make the access to the labour market possible.”

Women’s empowerment

While the broad target group of the programme are immigrants, there is an emphasis on women’s participation.

“In the case of women, and given that the project has a strong gender mainstreaming, it seeks and promotes the empowerment of women in order to achieve real equality,” said Ms Ballester Cerezo.

80 per cent of the participants in the course are women, especially coming from Morocco. Almost 80 per cent of them are between 35 and 50 years-old. In 2016, 235 adult immigrants benefited from the programme. Out of the three levels taught at the Foundation, 60 per cent passed the first level of literacy, 75 per cent passed the initial level and reached the advanced level, and 90 per cent passed the advanced level. In 2017, the Spanish Ministry of Employment and Social Security, General Directorate of Migration, decided to fund and support the programme with 38,000 USD.

“On International Literacy Day I would like to highlight the importance of literacy as a right and a means to accessing education, escaping poverty and combating inequalities. We urge governments to promote policies that make access to education equal for all,” said María Ballester Cerezo.

This year’s UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will be awarded to laureates from Afghanistan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Nigeria, Spain and Uruguay in time for International Literacy Day, which is celebrated on 8 September. The Prize Award Ceremony will take place at the global event for International Literacy Day on 7 September at UNESCO Headquarters. This year’s International Literacy Prizes and the global event have as theme ‘literacy and skills development’.