In singing songs or flying kites, In running fast or climbing heights, In school or home, with books or toys, In no way are girls less than boys. From a recent Indian children's book, ``Soap and Bubbles,'' by Kamla BhasinSkip to next paragraph
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A line has formed outside a bank on a busy commercial street in Mexico City. It is five minutes to 9.
The customers -- all women -- are impatient for the door to be opened by an elaborately uniformed, impressively authoritarian guard. They are eager to complete their transactions and hurry off to work.
But the guard delays, engaged in conversation with a fellow employee. The women continue to stand there meekly, waiting. Some anxiously look at their watches, some seem to implore him with their eyes. But no one protests. No one speaks to him. At 14 minutes after 9 he opens the door.
Mariestella Garc'ia is the first to get into the bank, and the first out, heading for her job at a nearby bakery. She is a short, plump, gray-haired woman in a black dress -- typical, in appearance, of traditional Latin womanhood. Mariestella has six children. The younger ones are still in high school, the older ones are married and working.
``Young or old, we all have to work,'' she sighs. ``The money doesn't stretch far enough.''
What about her husband? What does he do?
``He drinks. He sits around the house. Sometimes he beats me or the children. But whenever he comes home, he wants his dinner right away.'' The users and the used
To hear the women in the developing world tell it, Mariestella's home life is far from unusual.
Time and again, women in 11 countries on three continents told similar stories. They implied the following generalizations: women do all the work, while men are selfish, abusive, lazy. Many said that women provide for their families and men squander their money on amusements. They implied that women are loyal, conscientious, long-suffering, self-sacrificing, and brave, while men expect life to be handed to them on a plate.
Even discounting inevitable exaggerations, the sensitive traveler in the developing world cannot fail to recognize that most of its women -- hundreds of millions of them -- are, at best, the servants of men, and at worst, the frequent victims of their abuse. The comparatively liberated women of the industrialized nations can hardly imagine how very far the women in the rest of the world have still to come.
The question is: Why is male domination, with its often appalling consequences for families -- women, children, and men -- so pervasive?
After three month's travel throughout the developing world, and numerous interviews with sociologists and development experts, an astonishingly simple answer emerged: because, in much of the developing world, little boys are raised to use and dominate women, and little girls are raised to accept such treatment as normal. Starting young
``Girls grow up with a work ethic,'' declares Viji Srinivasan, a program director at the Ford Foundation in New Delhi.
``The men I know who have women working for them say they are much better workers than men,'' she says. ``Men sit around gossiping, but women are more disciplined, more efficient, more hardworking.''
Throughout the developing world, to varying degrees -- even in the poorest societies -- boys are brought up to be served, girls to serve. Boys are the princes in the family, girls are the scullery maids.
In developing countries, one often sees little boys scampering in a game, swimming in a river, laughing and leaping in freedom -- playing. And nearby, one often sees little girls staggering under the weight of their younger siblings (often almost as big as they are), fetching heavy loads of water or fuel, or laboring in the fields with their mothers -- working.
Many development workers have observed that when these children grow up, it is often the hardworking, disciplined girls who are better equipped to take on the responsibilities of family survival, since they have already been practicing these arts for so long.