How a Uygur woman living in desert becomes ambitious

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Beijing Review, September 19, 2020
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Tursunhan Tursunnyaz, a 34-year-old Uygur woman, works at a dairy factory near her home in the county of Luopu, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest China.

The Luopu County in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northwest China, lies next to the Taklimakan Desert, the world's second largest desert. The remote location made transportation difficult and mired the town in poverty.

"My husband just had a donkey cart in the past," said Tursunhan Tursunnyaz, a farmer and now a worker. The couple grew corn and wheat, which brought them an annual income of around 10,000 yuan ($1,477). Though it was much better than the earnings of many other villagers who made less than half of that, it was still a hard life, especially after they had two children.

Things began to look up after more factories began to come up in Luopu, mainly related to livestock breeding. They offer locals more choices besides farming. In the past, local women mostly stayed at home, looking after their families. And men remained idle in winter, when farming came to a halt. People's incomes were erratic and they were prone to fall into poverty. But the new industrialized economy is helping them live a stable life with expectations.

Tursunhan has found work in a dairy factory near her home earlier this year when the epidemic didn't affect much in Luopu. The company, headquartered in the county of Hutubi in central Xinjiang, breeds cows and makes milk products. Now Tursunhan is learning the ropes at the dairy section, earning 1,500 yuan ($221) as an intern. After three months, when she becomes a full-fledged worker, she will receive a wage nearly double of that in the first year.

She is also raising cattle while her husband has found part-time work as a construction worker. All this means their combined income is now five to six times what it used to be before and they can save much of it. The family of four plans to buy a car soon.

"I have more spending power now. I can buy clothes in the city of Hotan [100 km away] and eat hotpot there," the 34-year-old told Beijing Review. "I will keep working here."

More importantly, her way of thinking has changed. She doesn't want more children, unlike her mother's generation. Instead, she wants a better life for her son and daughter. One of her best friends is a teacher, who has convinced her that education can change lives, even in remote and poor villages.

"I wish for my kids to go to college," Tursunhan said.

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