In India, the legal age for marriage is 18, but more than half of the country's women are married and starting families by their 15th birthdays. On average, women make up only 6 percent of India's workforce—but that is changing.
Over the past decade, hundreds of U.S. companies have outsourced jobs to India. Over 300,000 Indians are employed as customer service phone operators. One of these workers is 29-year-old mother Bharti, who works from 8:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.—literally through the middle of the night. Bharti rarely spends more than 15 minutes at a time with her husband or son. She says she hasn't spent a night with her husband in two months.
"My ultimate dream is to have our own flat, and Ishu [her son] have his own room, and I'm not working at all," Bharti says. "I would love to teach dance. That's what I want—a simple, very small life."
These jobs imported from the West are changing Indian culture, especially how families are structured, says The Oprah Winfrey Show correspondent Lisa Ling. "Their lives are in reverse. They adopt these American, Western lives at night and come back and try to live their Indian lives during the day," she says. "The mothers are still obligated, even though they're working all night long, to come and cook first thing in the morning, pick up the kids during the day. Their duties have multiplied."
In Thailand, 65 percent of women work and the average household income is only $6,000 a year. Muhlee, a mom in Bangkok, Thailand, works six days a week as a masseuse—making just enough money to pay for the one-room apartment she shares with her 18-year-old daughter and husband. In addition to her busy work schedule, Muhlee says her husband also expects her to do all of the housework.
Because they do not have the room or the money, Muhlee's 9-year-old son does not live with his parents in Bangkok. Instead, he lives in the country with Muhlee's parents. She rarely gets to see him, but they talk every day.
"She would do anything for her kids," says Muhlee's translator.
"Muhlee is actually very lucky because she talks to her son every day," Lisa says. "She's one of millions of women around the world who are from the countryside, but have to leave their homes in search of work. Some of these mothers in China, in Mexico, in Thailand see their kids maybe once a month. Some see their kids maybe two times a year."
In Uganda, Lisa Ling introduces us to one woman who is almost single-handedly raising her country. Bakoko Zoe, a former government minister, has personally adopted 40 orphans whose parents died of AIDS. "Virtually that's all I do with my income," Bakoko says.
As she raises these 40 children, Bakoko simultaneously lobbies to change laws that give men unlimited power over women. And she starts changing those laws at home...with her 20 sons. "In the future, when we have our wives, we must learn how to give them the freedom and how to empower them to look for their own survival," one of her sons says.
"Even if I am poor, even if I don't have what others have, I have fine young men who will transform our society," Bakoko says.
In 2002, ABC's Nightline told a story about a mother's amazing daily sacrifices that Oprah has never forgotten. "Whenever I get—or even kind of think—I'm tired, I think about this story," Oprah says.
Congolese mother M'Sevumba, was widowed twice and left with 10 children to raise—ranging from 2 to 17 years old. In Congo, the deceased husband's brother is supposed to help the family after his death, but M'Sevumba was left on her own. To support her children, M'Sevumba works as a porter, hired to carry items such as mattresses up and down hills and long distances. In order to carry the weighty loads, M'Sevumba relies on balance, strength and endurance. For all her effort, a morning's work earns her just 25 cents.
With the help of International Rescue Committee, producers from The Oprah Winfrey Show recently found M'Sevumba. She continues working as a porter and has put four of her 10 children through primary school!
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