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Millennium Development Goals > Promote gender equality and empower women > Girls in rural Vanuatu begin education in mother tongue

Meeting Millennium Development Goals
through local languages

Goal 3. Promote gender equality and empower women
SIL views local language development as essential to achieve this goal.

Nearly two-thirds of the world's 875 million illiterate people are women. In ethnolinguistic communities, boys are often encouraged to interact with others in languages of wider communication. Girls, however, are typically expected to stay close to home where the local language is often the only language used. Research shows that girls and women who are educated in languages familiar to them stay in school longer and achieve better results than those who do not get mother-tongue instruction.

Girls in rural Vanuatu begin education in mother tongue

Children beginning their education in their mother tongue

Naomi lives on the tiny island of Tangoa in Vanuatu. At age six she has many years of schooling ahead of her. Tangoa is typical of ethnolinguistic minority communities, where statistics reveal that many students will complete grade six without literacy skills adequate to equip them for life.

Naomi's situation will be different. Although she is only in grade one, she can read and even write short stories. The difference is that Naomi has begun education in her mother tongue, Tangoa. Well-trained local teachers are giving Naomi and her classmates the opportunity to learn the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy in the language spoken in their homes. Class time is set aside to give students the opportunity to express themselves creatively in their mother tongue.

Next year Naomi will transfer her literacy skills to English and yet another world will open up to her.