Last month, model and mother Lily Cole spoke out to MPs in the Houses of Parliament to confront the problem of illiteracy. She shared shocking statistics that reveal how social issues significantly affect illiterate people around the world. The campaign urges people to sign a petition calling on the UN to realise how illiteracy can be found in the cause of almost every major problem humanity has to face.

757 million people in the world are illiterate, which represents the population size of Europe. This is an overwhelming statistic in itself, but when we consider all the social problems that affect illiterate people we can see the importance of this issue, and the changes that need to be made. The Alphabet of Illiteracy, which is a big part of the Project Literacy campaign, uses each letter of the alphabet to illustrate the relationship between illiteracy and many global issues we are aware of, and fighting. By combatting illiteracy many social problems will be targeted as well, including poverty, AIDS, and malnutrition.

“Illiterate people are significantly more likely to be affected by almost every major social issue. Which, understood the other way around, allows us to interpret illiteracy as a causal precondition, rather than a symptom, of many of the world’s challenges” Lily Cole explained. “A is for AIDS, because if you can’t read or write you are five times less likely to understand how to protect yourself from contracting the virus.”

When we know that 1 in 5 children leave primary school without being able to read or write we are faced with the extremity and urgency of this issue. This is an issue that affects developed and developing countries alike. Lily Cole talks about her own child and highlights how empowering it is to know how to read.

The Unesco Chair in Learning and Literacy at the University of Pennsylvania, Dan Wagner, explained that, “literacy is a key component in achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals. Without literacy, each of the 17 goals will be limited by the inability of citizens to be sufficiently informed on key issues, and less empowered to take action.

Project LiteracyProject Literacy is supported by 40 charities and educational organisations. The aim is that by 2030 no newborn children will have to be illiterate. The petition will be presented to the UN in New York on International Literacy Day on 8th September 2016.