3.5 Numeracy and financial literacy

Numeracy tends to play second fiddle to literacy. The eradication of innumeracy among women is essential for many reasons, most important of which is the link between numeracy and broader financial literacy. The latter is an important skill set for people to make sound decisions, both short- and long-term, regarding their economic security.

  • Without numeracy skills, women cannot start their own businesses (even from home), because even basic business activities require numerical skills;
  • Innumeracy rules women out of most well-paying employment opportunities;
  • Women are unlikely to open a bank account, because any banking relationship that involves credit, savings and loans requires the ability to undertake simple calculations;
  • Mothers will pass on their values to their children, including whether they believe literacy and numeracy are important. Studies show that financial literacy is often a learned behaviour, and there is a clear role for parents to play in making their children comfortable with these issues;
  • Women are often the accountants of households, putting tme in charge of daily financial management, including paying for basic goods and services, such as groceries, electricity and water. Without numeracy skills, they cannot manage this role effectively;
  • Women without numeracy skills are vulnerable to fraud and can be cheated more easily.

Mathematics is an integral component of any education curriculum. Numeracy is the precursor to mathematics, and acquiring it is essential to any illiteracy eradication effort. The next section examines a range of practical applications.

Content example: UNESCO Literacy numeracy program

UNESCO has integrated its literacy and numeracy programmes for adult learning around the world. For example, in Cape Verde the project, “Training for the Design and Implementation of an Integrated Adult Distance Learning and Training System (ECCA System) for the Economic Development of Cape Verde and Related Curricular Design” (2006-2009) is jointly financed by the Government of Cape Verde, the Regional Government of the Canary Islands and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation. It is a follow-up of the project “Adult Distance Learning (ECCA System) for the Economic Development of Cape Verde” (2002-2005). These projects were set up in support of the National Programme of Adult Education and Training, which combines distance education with adult basic education, secondary education, vocational education, and training, as well as community learning for development.36 (hyperlink)