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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

The Flow of Women’s Work

How Are Cultures Alike and Different?

Africa, Lesotho
Grades 3-5, Grades K-2
Gender, Language Arts & Literature, Let Girls Learn, Social Studies & Geography
One to two class periods

Water provides an excellent lens for studying gender roles. In this lesson, students compare the division of labor in water-related work in rural Lesotho with their own households. By doing this, they will gain an understanding of the multiple factors that influence how gender roles are established in different societies. This lesson culminates with students writing letters in the voice of visitors to the United States from Lesotho.


Students will

  • View photographs, read, and reflect on their own environments to gather information about gender roles in Lesotho and the United States.
  • Recognize that geography and traditions can influence gender roles.
  • Demonstrate through writing that they understand that people around the world have different attitudes about gender roles.
  • Gender: Another word for man or woman
  • Africa: one of the largest continents on Earth. It has 53 countries and is known for many things including large deserts and many animals.


  • Water in Africa: Lesotho Photo Gallery (find link above)
  • Paper for story writing and/or drawing
  • Map of Lesotho (find link above)
  • Worksheet: Viewing Lesotho


  1. Pose the first essential questions listed below: Are there things women should not do? Is there work that is only for women or men? Ask students to share their initial responses. Tell students they will be viewing some photographs taken in Lesotho, a country in southern Africa, as a way to investigate the differences between what men and women do there. Indicate Lesotho's location on a map and explain that more than 80 percent of the people in Lesotho belong to the Basotho ethnic group. Distribute the "Viewing Lesotho" worksheet (find link above). Ask the students to record the types of work they see being done and whether the person doing the work is male or female. Show photos from the Water in Africa: Lesotho Photo Gallery (find link above).

  2. Ask students to predict why they saw so much more water-related work being done by women than by men. Show the students the "Daily Usage: Lesotho" stories (find link above), or distribute the interview, Stories from Lesotho (find link above). Have the students read the anecdotal comments from Peace Corps Volunteers.
  3. Generate discussion by asking leading questions such as:
    • How are gender roles in the United States similar to those in Lesotho? How are they different?
    • What things influence the division of labor between men and women in the U.S.?
    • What are some points of comparison between gender roles in the developed and the developing world?
    • How does the relative level of prosperity and development in the United States influence gender role formation in this country?
    • What are some advantages and disadvantages to living in a society with sharply delineated gender roles?
  4. Have students pretend that they are going to have a visitor from Lesotho who will stay at their homes for a week. Have the students write a short paragraph from the point of view of the visitor. What would they think was different here in the United States. What do women do here that they do not in Lesotho? What do men do that is different? Younger students are welcome to create a visual story by drawing pictures of the roles of women in the United States as compared to those in Lesotho.
  5. When students have completed the final drafts of their paragraphs, invite them to share what they have written with other class members.

Frameworks & Standards

Essential Questions
  • Is there such a thing as women's work?
  • Is equality between men and women possible? Is it desirable?
  • Language Arts Standards
    • Standard 1: Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
    • Standard 2: Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
    • Standard 9: Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • Geography Standards
    • Essential Element 1: The world in spatial terms
    • Essential Element 2: Places and regions
    • Essential Element 4: Human systems
    • Essential Element 5: Environment and society
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