VIII. Women and the Environment

The Chinese government has continuously tried to optimize women's living and development environment, to bring their role into full play in protecting and improving the environment, and to enable women to live and develop in a sound environment.

Formulating a strategic goal for women to participate in sustainable development. In accordance with China's Agenda 21 and the requirement for reaching the goal of the Outline for the Development of Chinese Women, governments at all levels have actively encouraged women's participation in scientific research, evaluation, planning, designing, supervision and management of the environment. At present, quite a number of women are serving in departments related to environmental protection at various levels, some even taking leading positions, with about 30 percent of environmental monitoring and law-enforcement officials in the country being female. The state encourages women to take an active part in non-governmentally organized environmental protection activities. With the support of the government, the All-China Women's Federation has waged social mobilization and publicity campaigns, such as the March 8 Green Project, which involves over 100 million women volunteers a year in tree planting, shelterbelt construction and small drainage area control. In 1999, the All-China Women's Federation won the Global 500 Award of the United Nations Environment Program. In addition, some environmental protection NGOs initiated and participated in by women have urged enterprises to assume more social responsibilities, promoted green production and lifestyle, and played an active role in training and mobilizing the public to participate in environmental protection.

Protecting and improving the natural and living conditions for women's subsistence and development. In the past decade, with marked improvement in living conditions for both urban and rural residents, the average housing space and greenbelt area per person have increased by a large margin. The building and opening of many cultural, sport and recreational facilities has resulted in more public space for women and created favorable conditions for them to improve their quality of life. In recent years, the government has made great efforts to upgrade public toilets and water sewage treatment, and raise the rate of use of tap water and sanitary toilets in rural areas. From 2001 to 2004, the central government earmarked 9.7 billion yuan to solve the problem of drinking water for rural residents, providing safe drinking water for an average of 6.9 million rural women a year. In 2004, as many as 53.1 percent of rural households in China had access to sanitary toilets. The sanitary disposal rate of night soil in rural areas rose quickly from 28.5 percent in 1998 to 57.5 percent in 2004. The upgrading of public toilets and sewage facilities has eased the heavy burden of many rural women to carry water, and reduced health hazards for them and their family members, thus effectively improving their living and development conditions.

Actively creating a social environment conducive to gender equality and women's development, and gradually eliminating social prejudice, discrimination and suppression of women. The state has strengthened its publicity work concerning the basic national policy of gender equality. Officials in charge of government departments concerned and leaders of provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government) have published articles in the central and local mass media to expound the importance of gender equality for social development, and confirm women's role and contributions to the economy and all social sectors. A large number of programs and reports promoting gender equality and women's rights and interests, and showing women's talents, have been published, shown and broadcast in newspapers and on TV and radio programs. Besides, the government supports women's organizations to cooperate with the mass media in running programs to demonstrate women's functions in and contributions to social and economic development, and encourages them to use and attain access to information resources. With the wide application of the Internet in China, many women organizations have created their own websites, which have become an important means to publicize the idea of gender equality and promote women's development.