Linguistics and Literature Studies Vol. 8(1), pp. 14 - 25
DOI: 10.13189/lls.2020.080103
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Sustainable Development Goals: Reaching People through Their Mother Tongue

Jefwa Mweri *
Department of Kiswahili and Kenya Sign Language Research Project (KSLRP), University of Nairobi, Kenya


People's languages are vitally important to them. Through language, people communicate, share meaning and experience their sense of individual and community identity. Recognizing the profound importance that people place on their languages is a core insight for tackling poverty and hunger. UNESCO: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are essentially an expansion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The SDGs were a reaction to the weakness of the MDGs. Where the MDGs were only eight, the SDGs are seventeen. The SDGs are a new and universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states will be expected to use to frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years. The question that comes to mind when we think of the implementation and success of these SDGs is how UN member states will be able to reach the grassroots with these goals for them to be translated into reality. Mother tongue (MT) or local languages definitely have an important role to play. This paper therefore examines the role of MT or local languages in the achievement of these goals. It examines the power of language as a tool of development. Whether it is about ending hunger, promoting health, equitable quality education etc., it is important to note that language-based development is essential for meeting these goals. For each of the goals set, local languages or Mother tongue has an important role to play. These goals envisage a participatory approach to economic development and genuine participation in the development process that is dependent on two-way communication between the implementers of the SDGs and the people, this requires engaging people in the language they speak and understand i.e. the MT or local languages. MT is the language through which people have learnt how to think and how to communicate and therefore it can be harnessed to ensure that communities develop local solutions to the SDGs challenges. This paper argues that just like there is a human rights based approach to economic development, it is equally important to recognize the role of language in general and mother tongue or local languages in particular in the drive towards sustainable development goals. We argue for a language-based approach towards the SDGs in ensuring their success. In this paper we shall examine each SDG and critically analyze the role of mother tongue in their achievement.

Sustainable Development Goals, Local Languages, Mother Tongue, Development

Cite This Paper in IEEE or APA Citation Styles
(a). IEEE Format:
[1] Jefwa Mweri , "Sustainable Development Goals: Reaching People through Their Mother Tongue," Linguistics and Literature Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 14 - 25, 2020. DOI: 10.13189/lls.2020.080103.

(b). APA Format:
Jefwa Mweri (2020). Sustainable Development Goals: Reaching People through Their Mother Tongue. Linguistics and Literature Studies, 8(1), 14 - 25. DOI: 10.13189/lls.2020.080103.