No matter where you live in this world, being a woman often comes with an extra weight to carry. Here in the U.S., that weight could be fighting to receive the same pay as men, juggling a job while being a single mom, or feeling judged and insecure about your body.
For women in developing countries, the weight is usually more literal. It is large jugs of water strapped to their backs and carried miles each way from the source to the home; it is back breaking loads of firewood needed for cooking that must be collected everyday; it is the pressure of stooping all day while working the fields.
These physical burdens are difficult enough, but, unfortunately, there’s more. Many women who live under these conditions of oppression also live with a spiritual heaviness that comes from a lack of personal choice and opportunity, from a society that tells them they’re worthless and have no rights, from being forced to live in constant fear of abuse or banishment, from feeling there is no way out or alternative to their situation.
Last year, when I spent two months in Nepal working on a primary school, I never failed to be amazed at the amount of physical labor the women were expected to do, while many of their husbands lounged and socialized with friends. I never once saw my host mother or sister eat a meal, since custom dictates that the women eat last. But I did see hope that things could be different for their daughters – even among some of the more enlightened men in the village, who were excited about the prospect of their daughters going to school.
Creating opportunities for girls to receive education is the first step we need to take to ensure that future generations of women everywhere can live their lives with a lighter load.
What are some things that you’ve done or plan to do to help spread awareness about this issue?
Sarah Andrews is the Chair of the Edge of Seven Board of Directors and spent 2 months volunteering in rural Nepal last summer. She will be a regular contributer to this blog so keep an eye out for her posts! You can follow her on twitter at @atxsarah.