The Lives Unseen

The following stories have all been inspired by real people who were kind enough to share a glimpse into their responsibilities, fears, hopes and coping strategies as an illiterate person.

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VR Stories

We’re sharing stories via virtual reality in the hopes of inspiring you to join Project Literacy and advocate for improved literacy on a global scale. So put on a mask and experience a frozen moment in the life of someone living with illiteracy.


B is for Bloodshed

Mark's stories

B is for Bloodshed

Step into Mark's shoes and see the world from the perspective of a young man who has struggled with illiteracy his entire life. After leaving school early, Mark found himself under-qualified for most employment, forcing him to take on menial jobs.

For the past 31 years, he has been hiding his illiteracy from both the world at large as well as those close to him. Mark is one of the 757 million adults in the world who lack the literacy skills necessary to apply for most jobs. Realizing he’ll be stuck in an endless cycle, Mark finds himself at a breaking point.


of U.S. inmates can’t read above a fourth grade level


G is for Gender Inequality

Sandhya's stories

G is for Gender Inequality

See life through Sandhya’s eyes. She is one of the 496 million women in the world who cannot read or write. At eight years old, Sandhya was asked to drop out of school and start working to help her mother support their family.

Four years later, a government official requested for Sandhya to be re-enrolled. Today is her first day back in class and although she would like to be at the top of the class, her reality is exceptionally different.


2 out of 3

Illiterate adults are women


M is for Malnutrition

Terri's stories

M is for Malnutrition

Step into Terri's life, and the life of 34 million adults in the U.S. who are unable to accomplish everyday tasks due to illiteracy. As a mother, she feels inadequate and her constant need to ask for assistance leaves her worried that her family may discover the truth - that she can barely read or write.

Terri is unable to read and understand dietary requirements and nutritional information. She relies on a small number of unhealthy recipes she knows by heart or ordering fast food for her family. Her secret puts increasing strain on her family who do not understand the true extent of her struggle.


Adults in the U.S. can only read up to a fifth grade level

The Unsigned Petition

We've left 757 million spaces on this petition to represent every illiterate person on the planet. Illiteracy fuels poverty, hunger, radicalisation, the spread of HIV, child brides, infant mortality and gender inequality. And it has to stop. Sign for those who can't.

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Get Involved

Illiteracy fuels poverty, hunger, radicalisation, the spread of HIV, child brides, infant mortality and gender inequality. And it has to stop. We want the UN to put literacy at the heart of every action to advance the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Read our open letter. Sign for those who can't.

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