Today is the International Day of Rural Women, in recognition of this day we are featuring a guest blog from Kaitlin Davis, from She’s the First.

Access to education is absolutely crucial to the advancement of rural women and children.

In developing countries, 25% of children do not attend primary school. Statistics show that gender disparities are even more significant in rural communities—rural girls are much less likely to receive an education than their male counterparts and the disparity in literacy rates is even more astounding. The reasons for this are varied and great—rural girls are a primary source of labor in their families, they are depended on for housework and child care; in many instances, they lack access to safe or adequate transportation, and the proper sanitation facilities for menstruation while at school. It goes without saying that lack of financial resources has an incredible impact on this, as well.

Education has the power to change this; in fact, ensuring a girl’s education is the fastest way to eliminate many of the other challenges we’re facing in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Girls who have received an education are more likely to get married later in life, and have fewer and healthier children. Furthermore, an educated mother can spend more time focusing on the well being of each child when she has delayed childbirth and produced fewer children. Literacy grants awareness and access to information on healthcare; a literate woman can independently seek out information on how to secure the proper care for herself and her children.  Having an education is empowering to a rural woman, and will instill in her the confidence to acknowledge and secure her fundamental health rights—preventative measures for avoiding infant mortality being chief among them. When families are smaller, they are less likely to have to choose which of their children they can afford to educate. Thus, a greater number of the population’s children are educated and able to generate income, and the country’s economy flourishes as a result. A prosperous economy is vital to a nation’s healthcare system.

Finally, an educated woman is more likely to be a part of the workforce. With an education, she can bring new and innovative strategies to the agriculture industry—an industry in which rural women form the backbone—and increase the prosperity of the entire community. Providing these opportunities for greater responsibility and revenue gives a woman greater leverage for decision-making within her home, as well. Statistics have shown that a woman generating income spends a greater portion of that money on her family than does her husband. Ensuring that children are fed and properly cared for is her number one priority when resources are limited.

Surely, education is important for everyone, but none so much as rural girls and women. Their educational achievements will incite a ripple effect, creating tremendous positive results for their families and communities—improving health, generating income, and implementing change.

She’s the First, the organization that I am a part of, promotes the importance of educating girls, especially in the developing world. We seek to provide access to education by encouraging young people to tap into the power of their social networks and use creative and imaginative fundraising to sponsor the education of a girl. On UN International Day of Rural Women, it is so important to highlight an issue that may unlock the key to accomplishing the Millennium Development Goals. Providing education for women and girls is essential to creating a world free of poverty, sickness, and strife.

Kaitlin Davis is a She’s the First Ambassador, as well as the Secretary of the Board. She graduated from Fordham University in 2009 with degrees in Communication and Media Studies, and a certification in American Catholic Studies. By day, she is the Coordinator of Marketing and Communications for Music Theatre International.