(World Literacy Map, UN Human Development Report via wikipedia).
While researching for a story on education in Cambodia I came across this:
According to CIA World Factbook, "over two-thirds of the world's 785 million illiterate adults are found in only eight countries (Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Pakistan). Of all the illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds are women. Extremely low literacy rates are concentrated in three regions, the Arab states, South and West Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, where around one-third of the men and half of all women are illiterate."A number of the Bloom women are illiterate, which is unsurprising, since we employ middle-aged women who were young children during the Khmer Rouge era. But the country has made improvements.
The 1998 Census adult (people over the age of 15) literacy rates were estimated at 76.25 per cent for men and 45.98 per cent for women.
Today, overall adult literacy rate is 74% while youth literacy (people between 15 and 25) is 83% (UNESCO figures, data taken over a 5 year period, from 2000-2004). More adult men are literate, 85% compared with 64% of adult women; and more young men, 88% are literate, compared with 79% of young women. Source.
This is unsurprising, because when money is short, it is the boys who parents choose to send to school. Many young Khmer women are forced to stop their education and instead help out in the house or get a job.