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​Alisa Valdes: Literacy is the key to self-empowerment

CBS News asked noted figures in the arts, business and politics about their experience in today's civil rights movement, or about figures who inspired them in their activism.

Alisa Valdes, author ("The Dirty Girls Social Club"); named one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America by Time magazine

Please share an experience in which you realized that the U.S. has/has not achieved equality in race, gender or sexual preference, and the impact it's had on you.

Author Alisa Valdes. Michael Gandy

One area where we as a society still have a lot of work to do on civil rights is education, and specifically literacy. Access to quality education is still a problem for many groups of Americans, and Hispanic women in the United States have the lowest literacy rates of any racial, ethnic or gender group.

A Hispanic woman in the United States is currently 13 times more likely to become a teen mother, and 4 times more likely to commit suicide, than she is to be a proficient prose reader. Meanwhile, low literacy levels are correlated with every social ill you can name.

Literacy is the number one key to self-empowerment. This is why I created this year the Latina Alliance for Literacy Advancement (LALA), a nonprofit in partnership with the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce. We are aiming to launch in 2016 the nation's first and only literacy and numeracy program aimed at adult Hispanic women, with four pilot programs in my home state of New Mexico, with an eye toward eventually serving Latinas across the nation.

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