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(2009 August) UNESCO International Literacy Prizes for 2009, with the theme "Literacy and Empowerment," are being awarded to literacy projects in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, India and the Philippines. A program in Bhutan received an Honourable Mention. The award ceremony will take place at UNESCO headquarters in Paris during the observance of International Literacy Day, 8 September.
The Pashai Language Development Project, implemented by SERVE Afghanistan, a British NGO, received the first award of the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy, sponsored by the People’s Republic of China. SIL provided key funding and technical expertise to SERVE Afghanistan in the development of this project.
Despite civil unrest in Afghanistan, the project continues and maintains its emphasis on education, especially for women and girls. Participants are learning to use written material in their local language, Pashai, and in Pashto, one of the country's two official languages.
"It is exciting to hear how the courses for women are being taught in the traditional memorized chanting way," said Fredrick Boswell, SIL Executive Director. In congratulating SERVE Afghanistan, he noted the significance of this award: "The program is already well-supported by the local community. The literacy prize will, indeed, feed momentum for the program’s ongoing implementation. We rejoice with the Pashai people, and trust this will provide long-standing encouragement to everyone involved in this vital program."
The Pashai Project has served the Pashai-speaking people of Afghanistan through a holistic community development project since 1995. This community-owned initiative is providing meaningful literacy, livelihood, public health and nutrition education to about 1,000 Pashai ethnic minority men and women annually. Building on the success of a very successful cattle husbandry program, a multilingual education program has helped Pashai speakers to become literate in both their mother tongue and in the trade language.
The UNESCO International Literacy Prizes are awarded every year in recognition of excellence and innovation in literacy throughout the world.
Strategic partnerships between SIL, national governments, nongovernmental organizations and academic institutions create a network of expertise and resources to equip members of local language communities for leadership roles in their own language and development efforts.
As an international non-governmental organization, SIL has special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and formal consultative relations with UNESCO.