Stressing the need for eliminating large-scale illiteracy among women in the country, President Pratibha Patil on Tuesday expressed regret that despite efforts in reducing illiteracy rates since Independence one-third of Indians continue to remain uneducated.

Ms. Patil was speaking at a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan where she met neo-literate women and voluntary teachers from 26 States and Union Territories.

Interacting with the group, the President said despite tangible progress having been made even today one-third of Indians were illiterate. Emphasising the level of the challenge ahead, the President mentioned that of these one-third illiterates, half were women.

Ms. Patil said it was therefore absolutely necessary to eliminate large-scale illiteracy among women in the country. She expressed happiness that following her address to both Houses of Parliament earlier this year, the Saakshar Bharat Mission has been launched.

The Mission proposes to reduce the number of illiterate women over the next five years. The President was also happy that other than imparting literacy, the Mission also provides a component of skills development to women. She urged the involvement of Self Help Groups (SHGs) in the process and was happy that Panchayati Raj institutions were also part of the process.

These women and voluntary teachers are part of the Saakshar Bharat Mission, which was launched by the Union Government on September 8, on the occasion of International Literacy Day.

“The President said SHGs have been doing good work in many areas in many States. The group of voluntary teachers also got a special word of praise from the President. She referred to them as people undertaking the noble job of sharing and spreading knowledge,” said a Rashtrapati Bhavan official.

Union Minister of Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal said the Saakshar Bharat Mission could produce even better results if it truly took the shape of a national movement involving men, women and non-government organisations.

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