New Delhi, Nov 29 (UNI) A ''new direction'' focusing on making women literate was announced at a United Nations-sponsored conference today where illiteracy was dubbed ''a global disgrace.'' ''There is no greater gift bestowed on us than our children,'' United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi said while opening a conference hosted by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
''And no greater responsibility placed on us,'' she went on, ''than to ensure their education right from the very beginning.'' The two-day event is centred on Addressing the Literacy Challenge in South, Southwest and Central Asia: Building Partnerships and Promoting Innovative Approaches.
Noting that the discussions at the meet will focus on adult literacy, Mrs Gandhi pointed out that ''its obvious cause is lack of education in the early years.'' As for adult literacy, she told participants, Indian effort involved 12 million volunteers reaching 150 new learners, which she called ''a stupendous task by any reackoning.'' She underscored government plans to give female literacy a new focus. ''The National Literacy Mission is now being given a new direction... to bring a sharper emphasis on female literacy in poorer areas and amongst disadvantaged communities.'' The conference agenda includes going over the findings of EFA Global Monitoring Report 2008, which calls illiteracy ''a global disgrace.'' ''We cannot in all conscience,'' UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura pointed out, ''keep one in five adults-- one in four women-- on the margins of society.'' Speakers included Sri Lanka's XXX picking up from para six, line one of DI24, EDUCATION-ILLITERACY.