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World Bank researchers interviewed 800 youth who live in eight developing nations, and surveyed more youth ages 11 to 17 in 19 countries, for a report released in 2012.[i] They value education and getting good jobs. A young man from North Sudan explained, “Education lets us join the modern world, and offers us better jobs now; in the past it was not important since our people were farmers and were not paying attention to their future….” Girls admire their hard-working housewife mothers, but want to work outside the home. Boys also wanted their sisters and future wives to have jobs. Although parents also value education, girls may be taken out of school to help at home and boys to make money. In some places no schools are available or it’s not considering safe for girls to travel to school. In the Dominican Republic both genders agree that girls are afraid of getting raped or other violence if they go out.

Girls have less free time than boys for studying because of housework and some may marry and have babies while still school age (common in 11 of the 19 countries surveyed). However, most agreed the ideal time to start a family was 18 or older.  A girl from Papua New Guinea reports, “Boys do nothing to help. They look for their friends to tell stories, and roam the streets the whole day, chewing gum, listening to music, sleeping, and resting. Girls take care of all household cores, collect firewood, and fetch water.” Boys’ chores take less time.

This high value on education defines what they think is good or bad behavior—studying and doing well is the top of the list for both boys and girls. For girls, helping at home was the second marker for a good girl, followed by being respectful, obedient, religious, dressing appropriately, staying home rather than wandering, doesn’t have a boyfriend, is hardworking and polite. The worst trait for a girl is roaming around and staying out late. The list of appropriate good behavior for boys is different after the first choice of studying. It’s followed by being respectful, not having vices like drinking and smoking, helps at home, religious, obedient, polite, has good friends, and doesn’t have a girlfriend. The worst behavior for boys is vices. It’s encouraging that both genders don’t see women’s only place as in the home, although girls have less mobility because of safety concerns.


[i] World Bank, World Development Report, pp. 280-283, 2012.

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