My first recollection of blatant gender discrimination in the developing world took place on the side of a mountain.  My friend Bev and I were being escorted down a well-worn Himalayan path just as the sun was setting.  We were trying to reach a good sized village where we would meet our driver and a car to take us to the border of this stunningly beautiful Asian country. The three mile walk down the mountain was quite enjoyable and along the way we would run into only a few people walking up the mountain. 

One small group was a family consisting of a father, mother, and their adult daughter who was holding an infant. Except for the perfectly formed baby, all were lepers on their way to a church service. They were scheduled to arrive late, as was their custom, so they could enter the back of the church and not disturb others with their deformed presence. Our guide knew everyone in this locale and introduced us.  We cooed over the baby and then gave each one a lingering heartfelt hug goodbye.  Our guide advised us that surely that was the only hug they had received since contracting leprosy, a disease which was still widely feared by everyone else.

While walking and pondering their station in life, we came upon a man who was probably about 30 years old carrying a baby son. He greeted us in the traditional manner by forming his hands into the praying position, somewhat awkwardly, while trying to also hold the baby, nodded his head, smiled broadly, and cheerfully said “Namaste”. We returned the greeting with the same enthusiasm. 

As we turned to continue our downward journey we caught our first glimpse of the man’s wife. She was tiny and following about 10 steps behind her husband. We stared, dumbfounded, as she passed us struggling to carry a bag of rice so big that she had to balance it on her back with a strap going up and around her sweat-laden forehead.  She was bending over and breathing heavily under the immense weight of her cargo which seemed to equal, or even exceed, her own body weight. Between breathless pants, she managed to blurt out “Namaste” as she passed us looking straight ahead, forging on with her heavy load.
Source: Sow Hope