International Literacy Day

Although the data show a steady increase in literacy, there has been a certain regression in some parts of the world, due in particular to pandemics, conflicts and political choices. According to data collected by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), there are still some 773 million illiterate adults, the majority of whom are women.

In a context where the UN wants to speed up the process of achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly the SDG4 on education, these figures reflect the work that remains to be done.

The 2023 theme “Promoting literacy for a world in transition: building the foundations of sustainable and peaceful societies” is an invitation to join forces with all levels of government and civil society organizations. Everyone agrees that literacy is a crucial instrument for empowering people, with a positive impact on their health, economic situation and relationships with others. “It’s the key to getting out of poverty and enabling people to claim their rights.”

Puente Learning Center-1988-Source : Service central des archives SNJM

This day dedicated to literacy is an opportunity to recall that the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) are always involved in education, not only through formal schools, but also through homework accompaniment, learning the language of use for immigrants and support for refugees.

These actions were inspired by the initial desire of the founder of the congregation, Mother Marie-Rose, to educate girls, especially those in the countryside who did not have access to schools or who had to make do with instruction limited to housework.

From the very beginning of the religious teaching congregation, there was a desire to offer a variety of training that went far beyond traditional subjects such as writing, reading, religion and housework in order to allow young girls to develop their talents and enable them to go further in their studies. In Mother Marie-Rose’s mind, educating girls was paramount as they assume an essential role within the family unit where they can help develop their children and ultimately play a role in society.

Visit the “Audacious Woman Agents of Changes” archival exhibit to learn more about the diversity of SNJM’s education work.

For the record, let us recall this important writing by Mother Véronique-du-Crucifix, Director of Studies at the end of the 19th century, at a time when the inequality of girls with regard to education was not considered a problem in Quebec or in North America.

Mother Véronique-du-Crucifix (Hedwidge Davignon)

“This is a great question: Is it good for women to be educated, or is it not better for them to possess only that knowledge which they cannot do without in their humble and modest role as housewives?

We do not fear to say that this question is offensive to women, and here is what we answer: A young girl must receive a serious, solid, extensive, complete education […]. Nothing should be neglected to adorn her mind and develop her intelligence. […] A solid and complete education is indispensable for the development of women, for their cooperation in the family and in society. […]

We therefore say to young girls: study, cultivate your intelligence unceasingly.”