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Global Literacy and Education

Illiteracy is a global challenge. 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. As Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade, Mrs. Bush works to promote literacy worldwide.

The White House Conference on Global Literacy
Mrs. Bush hosted the first ever White House Conference on Global Literacy in September 2006 to encourage international cooperation to change lives and build free societies through literacy. The Conference developed as 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 examined three vital functions of literacy: Literacy for Health, Literacy for Economic Self-Sufficiency, and Mother-Child Literacy. Literacy for Health ensures that adults can make informed, wise decisions to protect the health of their families. Literacy for Economic Self-Sufficiency ensures that adults, especially women, can learn basic business skills that generate income, foster independence, and boost local economies. By investing in literacy and education, governments build their economies. Mother-Child Literacy and Intergenerational Learning ensure that as mothers -- our first teachers -- learn to read, they can impart those skills to their children, beginning a chain of literacy that continues from one generation to the next. By investing in literacy instruction for women and girls now, governments ensure that future generations will enjoy the benefits of reading.

Speakers at the Conference highlighted a variety of successful literacy programs and encouraged sustained global and country-level leadership to promote literacy. Building on the work of the White House Conference on Global Literacy, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is hosting a series of regional conferences to address literacy challenges specific to various regions.

President Bush's African Education Initiative
Mrs. Bush has traveled to Africa to observe the work of President Bush's African Education Initiative (AEI), which will receive $400 million over four years (2007–2010). The AEI program links minority-serving colleges in the United States with institutions in Africa to provide the resources needed so that more African children can attend school. The AEI’s Textbooks and Learning Material Program (TLMP) is specifically focused on challenges relating to the lack of textbooks and learning materials in sub-Saharan Africa. The objective of the program is to develop and produce textbooks and educational materials for grades K-8 in the subject areas of mathematics, science, language arts, and reading.

Global Health

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief
Mrs. Bush has visited a number of prevention and treatment support programs in Africa that receive funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR is a five-year, $15 billion-dollar initiative that supports prevention, treatment and care for adults and children with HIV and AIDS in 120 countries around the world. The Emergency Plan works in partnership with the hardest-hit countries. That partnership is saving lives, including those of unborn children with HIV-infected mothers. When President Bush announced PEPFAR at the beginning of 2003, only 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa were thought to be receiving anti-retroviral treatment. Now, in PEPFAR's 15 focus nations, the United States has helped provide treatment for more than 560,000 people.

The President’s Malaria Initiative
Late in 2006, The President and Mrs. Bush hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Malaria to raise awareness of malaria and mobilize a grassroots effort to save millions of lives in Africa. The Summit brought together international experts; corporations and foundations; African civic leaders; and voluntary, faith-based and non-profit organizations to discuss effective ways to deliver prevention and treatments.

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) is saving lives. President Bush announced the Initiative in June 2005. A five-year, $1.2 billion program, PMI challenges the private sector to join the U.S. government in combating malaria in 15 of the hardest-hit African countries. PMI's goal is to cut malaria’s mortality rate by 50 percent in these target countries, freeing these African nations and their citizens from the grip of debilitating disease. Through partnerships working in the first three target countries – Angola, Tanzania and Uganda – aid from the American people has already reached about six million Africans. In 2007, 30 million more will receive life-saving medicines, sprays, and nets as the program expands. One American with just $10 for a mosquito net can help save a life in Africa. A school, a church, or a team can help save a village. Together, Americans can help protect an entire continent.

Public-Private Partnership for Clean Water in Africa
Mrs. Bush announced a groundbreaking public-private partnership between the U.S. Government, PlayPumps International, the Case Foundation, and other public and private sector partners. This $60 million alliance works with 10 sub-Saharan African countries to bring the benefits of clean drinking water to as many as 10 million people by 2010. The innovative PlayPump water system is powered by children's play. When children turn a merry-go-round wheel as they play, they pump clean water for their village -- helping keep themselves and their neighbors in good health. The PlayPump was invented in Africa, is manufactured in Africa, and benefits Africans.

Women’s Empowerment

Mrs. Bush is actively involved in promoting the importance of education and literacy for all, especially women and girls. Mrs. Bush knows that education is powerful in the fight against poverty and injustice. Well-educated children can help create a world of understanding and tolerance and are equipped for a hopeful future. Education reshapes communities, fosters democracy, and strengthens economies. Strong schools that emphasize basic skills and broad knowledge enable nations to prosper and the ideals of liberty to flourish.

Mrs. Bush works to raise awareness of the importance of educating girls because she believes that educated girls are better able to handle any of life’s challenges, including violence and disease. The United States sponsors the Ambassadors Girls' Scholarship Program, which will provide 550,000 scholarships to girls at the primary and secondary level. So far, 120,000 scholarships have been provided in 40 countries.

The Middle East and Afghanistan
During her visit to the Middle East and Afghanistan, Mrs. Bush announced the United States’ support for the American University of Afghanistan. Through a multi-year commitment of more than $15 million, the United States helps ensure that young Afghan women receive an education equal to that of men. Mrs. Bush also unveiled plans for the development of the International School of Afghanistan. The school will provide kindergarten through high school students with a classical curriculum that includes mathematics, language, literature and grammar, the sciences, social studies, culture and arts.

April 3, 2008
Mrs. Bush's Remarks in a Young Atlanticist Video Conference with Kabul University
April 4, 2008
Mrs. Bush's Remarks After a Visit to Stavropoleos Church
April 6, 2008
Mrs. Bush's Remarks After a Visit to Sochi Art Museum
April 7, 2008
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Vital Voices Awards Ceremony
March 14, 2008
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at the Launch of the U.S.-Mexico Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research
More »
Global Diplomacy

Mrs. Bush’s 2007 Travel
Mrs. Bush’s 2006 Travel
The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief
The President’s Malaria Initiative
The President’s African Education Initiative

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