If you want candid answers about how gender shapes destiny, ask the world’s nine-year-olds. Read the full story

At nine, a girl in Kenya already knows that her parents will marry her off for a dowry, to a man who may beat her. At nine, a boy in India already knows he’ll be pressured by male pals to sexually harass women in the street.

At nine, youngsters from China to Canada and Kenya to Brazil describe big dreams for future careers—but the boys don’t see their gender as an impediment, while the girls, all too frequently, do.

On the cusp of change, in that last anteroom of childhood before adolescence, nine-year-olds don’t think in terms of demographic statistics or global averages. But when they talk about their lives, it’s clear: Children at this age are unquestionably taking account of their own possibilities—and the limits gender places on them.