III. Women and Poverty Elimination

To alleviate and eliminate poverty is a goal that the Chinese government is determined to realize. With the implementation of large-scale and effective special poverty-reduction development programs, the government has succeeded in reducing the poverty-stricken rural population, the majority of whom are women, by 53.9 million - from 80 million in 1994 to 26.1 million in 2004.

Formulating preferential policies for the elimination of poverty among women. The Outline for the Development of Chinese Women puts forth the main goals of reducing the extent of poverty among and the number of poor women, and calls for more support for poverty-stricken women in the country's western development strategy, so that women will be the main receivers of poverty-reduction resources and the direct beneficiaries of the achievements of the poverty-reduction efforts. The state poverty-reduction program has made it clear that the government strives to further motivate women in the poverty-stricken areas to engage in household sideline production and the "courtyard economy," launch labor-intensive and other poverty-reduction projects that are particularly suitable for women, and organize women to learn practical skills and enhance their ability to shake off poverty and become well-off. At the Global Conference on Speeding Up Poverty Reduction, held in Shanghai in 2004, the Chinese government made a statement on its policy concerning the alleviation and elimination of poverty, which stressed the principle that, all factors being equal, preference will be given to poor women, and encouraged poor women to take part in poverty-reduction programs, and promised that the ratio of women participants would be no less than 40 percent of the total.

Adopting effective measures to gradually eliminate poverty among women in rural areas. Since 2001, the Chinese government has made sex indicator a component of the poverty monitoring work in rural areas, and stressed that attention should be paid to gender equality in the poverty-reduction work. In recent years, the government has increased its financial input into poverty-reduction work. In 2004 alone, 12.2 billion yuan was allocated by the central treasury for poverty reduction projects, and local governments also increased their inputs into this field. At the same time, and on the basis of the specific conditions in different areas, they have endeavored to help rural women get rid of poverty by way of provision of small-sum credit loans, labor export and pairing-off assistance. During the period from 2001 to 2004, a total of 13.52 billion yuan in small-sum credit loans for rural households was granted from the state poverty-reduction discount loans, and more than half of the money went to women. Since 2001, the Chinese government has taken poverty-reduction projects in the form of participation of the poor as the main way to "enhance the whole village," and such projects now cover 148,000 poverty-stricken villages nationwide.

Supporting and encouraging NGOs to help women get rid of poverty and become well-off. In recent years, thanks to the support and initiative of the Chinese government, women's federations at all levels have launched, in view of local conditions, the "Poverty-Reduction Action for Women" with provision of small-sum credit loans, poverty elimination group by group, labor export, pairing-off assistance and mutual help between the eastern and western parts of the country as the main contents. The China Population Welfare Foundation has launched "Happiness Project" with an aim to help poor mothers. It raises funds to help poor mothers participate in economic and social development, and enhance their health and cultural level. The project of "Love of the Earth, Water Cellars for Mothers," initiated by the China Women's Development Foundation, has raised funds for building more than 90,000 rain-water collecting cellars and 1,100 small central water supply projects in the water-short northwest part of China, benefiting nearly one million poverty-stricken people. In addition, women's federations and other NGOs have tried every means to get international funds and material aid to support the poverty-reduction projects and help women in poverty-stricken areas improve their lot.