I come from four generations of college educated women. (Five if you count a two year teacher’s college.) I will be the first to admit that I am extremely biased about education for women. I simply cannot comprehend what it would be like to not be able to read. But for 23% of the world’s women, illiteracy is a fact of life.

There are a variety of reasons for this. In poorer countries, daughters are almost always the first ones to be pulled from school – or to be simply never sent at all. With literacy comes power. A woman who can read and write is more likely to know her rights and have more control in over her life.

In Afghanistan, only 12.6% of women are literate in comparison with 46% of men. (Circa 2000) But this does not stop these women. No matter their age, they still try to learn if given a small chance. It is especially moving to see that there is an entire “village council” that is composed entirely of women.

The fact that these women sign with their thumbs but wish to learn to write oddly enough reminds me of Charlemagne. He could not write and was forced to sign his signature with his thumb or seal, but he desperately wished to learn. Even though he acknowledge that he was probably too old to learn, he still kept a tablet under his pillow, hoping to at least learn to sign his name.

It just goes to show – you can’t stop the human spirit. Or the power of knowledge.