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Kate Winslet gives a voice to illiterate women – it’s a “basic human right”

Image via REUTERS/Luke Macgregor

Kate Winslet gives a voice to illiterate women – it’s a “basic human right”

Kate Winslet gives a voice to illiterate women – it’s a “basic human right”

Ahead of World Literacy Day on September 8, actress Kate Winslet has said too many women can be trapped by a sense of “shame” over illiteracy – where they conceal problems rather than get help.

Kate Winslet was speaking at the launch of a National Literacy Trust project in the UK to improve literacy skills and employment chances for disadvantaged young women.

The charity says almost one in 10 young adult women in the UK has poor skills when it comes to reading and writing.

While speaking at the London event, Winslet said these women were missing out on a “basic human right”.

When patients were unable to read instructions on a medicine bottle or parents could not understand a letter sent home from school, Winslet said, people could be left “isolated and fearful” and lacking in any sense of control.

“Every aspect of their everyday lives can be dictated by their inability to read,” said Winslet.

The actress has previously won an Oscar playing a character whose secret was that she was illiterate, and she said that researching the role, in The Reader, she had spent time with women who had been too ashamed to admit their problem.

“It was like a life in hiding,” said Winslet, as illiterate women found ways to avoid revealing how poorly they could read and write. “They would pretend to blend in.”

She knew one woman who pretended to have broken her hand and wore a cast whenever she thought she would be asked to fill in a form. The woman even broke off relationships rather than reveal her secret. “She had spent her life ashamed and living a lie,” said Winslet.

For most people, she said, learning to read was completely taken for granted but a sizeable and unseen minority were stuck with poor literacy levels that crushed their chances.

“It’s like living in a country and never learning the language,” she said.

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