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China strives to help left-behind women

Updated: 2013-12-30 17:07
( Xinhua)

KUNMING -- In Lianchi village of Yongren county, Yunnan province, 43-year-old Li Fumei is dancing with other women in a circle at the village square.

Li's husband is a migrant worker in neighboring Guangdong province. Her only son is a driver in coastal Fujian Province.

Li's husband and son only come home once every year during the Spring Festival. The rest of the time, Li stays home alone taking care of her father-in-law.

China strives to help left-behind women
Special coverage: Life after Loss

Lianchi village has a total of 1,020 households, with an average of two people from each household working as migrant workers. The left-behind are all women, children or seniors.

To seek better-paying jobs, more and more married men in the village, unhappy with their tiny farming incomes at home, make their annual exodus to cities after the Spring Festival, leaving their loved ones behind.

The wives who stay in the countryside not only bear the loneliness but also toil to keep their homes running.

To improve the lives of these left-behind women, the Lianchi village committee has built a cultural square and set up an art troupe to organize dancing and singing activities for those left at home.

"When I was home by myself, I sometimes felt lonely. Now I often come to the square to dance and sing with others. I love singing and dancing, plus chatting with other people makes me feel better," Li Fumei said.

China now has nearly 50 million left-behind women in rural areas, statistics from the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) show.

Research conducted by the China Agricultural University also showed that left-behind women have taken up more than 85 percent of both farm work and household chores.

In recent years, the Chinese government, along with non-governmental organizations, has made many attempts to help alleviate the loneliness and stress of left-behind women.

According to a decision approved at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee last month, the government pledged to improve a care service network for rural children left behind by their parents as well as for women and the elderly in rural areas.

Starting in 2010, the ACWF began to build "homes for women" nationwide to provide women with a place to organize entertainment activities, give psychological guidance and offer legal consultation to protect their rights. Now there are a total of 745,000 "homes for women" across China.

Encouraged by the ACWF, support groups have also been set up across the country to help left-behind women with production, parenting and employment, and provide them with psychological counseling.

The ACWF also provides preferential loans to left-behind women who are willing and able to start their own businesses.

Li Jiyan, a 32-year-old in Yongren County, started her own embroidery association in 2009 after receiving a government loan. The association's annual production value has now reached more than 3 million yuan (about $488,600).

"Before I started my own business, my income was 2,000 to 3,000 yuan per year. Now I make 150,000 to 160,000 yuan a year," Li said, adding that all of the left-behind women in her village have joined her association to embroider.

"They do not need to migrate to work outside anymore," said Li.

Yongren County has provided a total of 20.41 million yuan in preferential loans to left-behind women  since 2009, helping 277 women to start their own businesses in industries including planting, animal breeding and embroidery.

"To help women is to help families and, ultimately, to contribute to society," said Zheng Lu, vice president of the Yunnan Provincial Women's Federation.