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Rural women find independence, confidence in jobs

Xinhua, June 16, 2022 Adjust font size:

Photo taken on March 9, 2022 shows a female worker weaving products in a factory in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Xie Jianwen)

Sewing machines whirring and thread cones spinning, Zhang Qiuli, 34, strides in the buzzing workshop keeping everything in check.

Three years ago, she was a rural housewife, living on the wages of her husband who left for work in cities. Today, she manages a group of around 40 workers in her hometown.

"Instead of asking my husband for money, I earn it myself," said Zhang.

Zhang lives in Siyuan Village in Guyuan city of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The village is located in the Xihaigu area which was long deemed "uninhabitable" until recent years.

For a long time, women in Xihaigu stayed at home taking care of kids, cattle and crops, while men work outside to support the family. Local housewives with few sources of income had to ask their husbands for household spending, skimping on everything they could.

He Wenhua, 46, from Hongya Village in Xihaigu, recalled that her grandmother rarely spent a dime on dressing herself up because of financial concerns and it was common in the village.

"Rural women like grandma could only rely on their husbands for money and how much they could get often depended on the men's mood," said He.

For her generation, women in Xihaigu are eager to secure an income of their own. In Zhang's case, she left the village to take odd jobs several times, but after having a second baby in 2012, she had to quit her job and return home to take care of the children.

Life in the village has changed in recent years, as China achieved the task of eliminating extreme poverty in late 2020. Many factories have been introduced to the local village, including Ningxia Quanxiang, a manufacturer of outdoor goods, where Zhang got a formal job for the first time.

According to Huang Shuihai, the general manager of the company, over 90 percent of the approximately 500 employees are local rural housewives.

Some, like Zhang, have worked their way up to become management. Zhang is now a workshop manager at the factory and earns a monthly salary of around 4,000 yuan (about 629 U.S. dollars).

"It didn't feel good to ask for money from someone else," said Zhang. "Now that we are breadwinners ourselves, we have become more confident in spending the money."

According to the report on the monitoring results of the Outline for the Development of Chinese Women (2011-2020), released by the National Bureau of Statistics in December 2021, women accounted for 43.5 percent of China's total working population, thanks to the improving policies for employment and starting businesses over the past decade.

He, the woman from Hongya Village, became paraplegic due to a car accident. With government support, she learned to knit hats and shoes and the products sell well across the country, earning her about 30,000 yuan annually.

In order to seek better development, she began to livestream her handiwork from her wheelchair and is teaching more than 20 fellow village women to knit so they can also create better lives for themselves.

"I'm disabled but I feel more confident and free now," said He. "I hope more rural women could be financially independent and lead a dignified life."

With more rural women in the Xihaigu area joining the workforce, they are undertaking a bigger role in the family.

Zhang said that sometimes when her daughter asks her husband for pocket money, he says "go get that from your mom."

At work, she also encourages other newly recruited female workers in their choice to get a job because it relieves some financial burden from their families.

"Moreover, a job helps you to live out your true self, instead of revolving your life around your husband and children," she said. 

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