Without a doubt my most vivid memories from my work on the new gender report On Norms and Agency: Conversations about Gender Equality with Women and Men in 20 Countries were my journeys to Peru and Liberia to pilot questions for focus groups. We conducted pilots in rural and urban areas, but as terribly different as these settings were, the level of similarities that emerged surprised me.
Namely, I imagined that traditional gender norms would be much less apparent in modern and rapidly urbanizing Lima when in fact, it was not the case. Young women in Lima described their day as getting up before sunrise in order to get a hot breakfast on the table, and then juggling a flurry of activities - including part-time work as supermarket cashiers and bank tellers. The descriptions were very similar to those we heard from women in other countries.
It was startling that gender norms in a modern city were not much different from norms in a rural community of a low-income country. Just like women from poorer and more traditional places, women in Lima helped their husbands make ends meet on top of long hours of household work. Just like in less developed communities, teenage pregnancies for girls as young as 12 and 13 were cited as a problem of deep concern. All of this in a place where girls went to high school and college, and had access to a modern family planning clinic right in their neighborhood.