First White House Global Literacy Conference Showcases MSH "Learning for Life" Program

CAMBRIDGE, MA (SEPTEMBER 22, 2006) — On September 18, First Lady Laura Bush hosted the first White House conference on Global Literacy at the New York Public Library in New York City. Developed to encourage sustained global and country-level leadership to promote literacy, Mrs. Bush underscored the President's commitment to building free societies through literacy. The conference highlighted a variety of successful global literacy programs, to share best practices and lessons learned. One such initiative is Management Sciences for Health's "Learning for Life" program, developed specifically to increase the literacy of rural Afghan women as well as improve their health and that of their families. Under the USAID-funded Rural Expansion of Afghanistan's Community-based Healthcare (REACH) Project, implemented by MSH, Learning for Life provided health-oriented literacy education to over 8,500 women in 13 provinces throughout Afghanistan.

Learning for Life is a nine-month accelerated adult literacy and learning initiative. Designed and implemented by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the International Rescue Committee, Learning for Life provided women with the education and added skills needed to increase their eligibility for training as community health workers. Through an advanced level course, the program has also helped nearly 500 women become eligible for training as community midwives. In Afghanistan, where Islamic practices dictate that women receive health services only from other women, educating illiterate females can save lives.
For more information on the Learning for Life program, visit REACH project website. Today, Learning for Life continues under the management of CARE International through their community education program.

According to UNESCO, more than 771 million adults around the world cannot read. Eighty-five percent of them live in just 35 countries, concentrated in regions of poverty; more than two-thirds of these illiterate adults are women. The White House Conference on Global Literacy is a result of Mrs. Bush's visits to countries around the world where she witnessed the power of literacy to improve lives, especially for women and girls. The conference has focused on three core themes to share best practices across cultures and borders to improve global literacy. The conference heard from panelists focused on three vital areas of literacy, including literacy in health. Literacy in health has been underscored as critical to ensuring adults make informed and wise decisions to protect the health of their families. Other themes included mother-child literacy and literacy for economic self-sufficiency.