Labour Illiterate on Illiteracy

One line jarred in the Shadow International Development Secretary’s speech yesterday. Kate Osamor told the conference hall: “Two thirds of the world’s women cannot read or write”. Guido checked and it was in the pre-briefed text too. Quite a statistic, but is it true?

The UN estimates there are 2.7 billion women over the age of 15. Two thirds would make 1.8 billion innumerate women, an astonishing figure that doesn’t appear anywhere on the internet. One figure that does appear is this from Unesco: “Two thirds of adults who are illiterate are female”. Unesco reports that of the 758 million illiterate adults in the world, two thirds of them – 505 million – are women. Osamor’s speechwriter couldn’t read the illiteracy stats…


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