Functional Illiteracy

How Has South Asia’s Highest Illiteracy Rate in the World Affected the Region?

Illiteracy is a global issue that significantly impacts communities across South Asia. Millions of men, women and children experience illiteracy in this region. South Asian countries with the highest illiteracy rate include Bhutan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.1 Poverty is a major cause of the South Asia highest illiteracy rate. According to the World Bank Group, approximately 256 million people live in extreme poverty in South Asia.2

Illiteracy relegates adults to low-income jobs, debt and poverty. Illiterate adults cannot read or sign medical or governmental forms, fill out job applications or read street signs. Every person in this situation has a unique story about how poverty and illiteracy has impacted their lives.

For Mandeepa, illiteracy was a 32-year struggle.3

Mandeepa grew up in an impoverished family in South Asia. When her father tragically died when she was 3 years old, Mandeepa, her mother and her five siblings moved in with her grandfather. Her mother worked long hours in the fields with Mandeepa’s grandfather to provide for their family. Even still, Mandeepa’s family struggled.

Mandeepa and her siblings began working at a young age to supplement the family’s income. Some worked in the field with their mother; Mandeepa became a housekeeper. Poverty prevented her from attending school.

At 16 years old, Mandeepa became a Christian and began regularly attending church. The pastor gifted Mandeepa a Bible, but she could not read it. She longed to read God’s Word, and her inability to do so greatly discouraged her.

When Mandeepa was 32 years old, the Women’s Fellowship at her church, led by a GFA pastor, started literacy classes. Mandeepa eagerly signed up and began learning basic letters, sounds and words. After one year, Mandeepa could read her Bible, which filled her with hope and joy.

Mandeepa’s story of illiteracy echoes millions of others in South Asia. Many of them, much like Mandeepa, do not have the resources on their own to gain literacy.

What can you do to help?

For decades GFA World has been helping adults like Mandeepa discover hope. GFA’s literacy classes teach adults valuable reading, writing and basic math skills. Functional literacy qualifies adults for higher-paying jobs and empowers adults to advocate for themselves and their families. Reading and writing skills help adults read road signs, job applications, medicine bottles and much more. Literacy classes help empower adults, their families and their communities.

Consider giving to GFA World’s literacy efforts today!

Learn more about functional illiteracy

1 “Low Literacy Rates In South Asia: Causes And Consequences.” World Atlas. Accessed 6 February 2022.
2 “South Asia.” World Bank Group. Accessed 7 February 2022.
3 “Literacy: Something to be Treasured.” GFA World. September 2017.