The theme for this year's United Nations Day was “rural women fighting hunger to reduce poverty.” And here in China, UN agencies held a photo contest of pictures snapped by rural Chinese women.
One of the three top prize winners, Zhang Yinfang, a Tibetan housewife from the Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous County in northwest China's Gansu Province, was present at Wednesday's ceremony in celebration of United Nations Day held in Beijing Wednesday.
Another winner is from the Yi Ethnic Group in southwest China's Yunnan Province and the third from northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
“It is the first time I have been to Beijing and met so many foreigners,” Zhang said. Her photo of a widely grinning rural woman hugging a bunch of wheat was displayed on the wall of the exhibition hall.
Many rural women across the world live in extreme poverty, and history proves that women tend to bear especially heavy burdens as a result of poverty, environmental degradation, diseases and natural disasters, said Kerstin Leitner, resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, at the ceremony.
In Asia, about 60 percent of food is produced by women, while they only own 2 percent of the land and receive 1 percent of all agricultural credit, according to Leitner.
"However, women have proven their ability to improve their lives with their own efforts," she said. “Chinese rural women performed well in those poverty-relief projects jointly launched by the UN agencies and the Chinese government.”
Zhang Yinfang said that she borrowed a small sum of loan from a UNICEF project and invested it first in a sheep-raising plan and then for planting vegetables, dividing the costs of the projects with others.
“My family earns more than 2,500 yuan a year now,” she said. The annual income of Zhang's family used to be 700 yuan (US$87).
“And I gained more respect from my husband now that he realized I can do something,” she added.
The cooperation in poverty alleviation between the UN agencies and the Chinese government has been a success, more joint efforts will be made, said Lu Feijie, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.
China has always paid much attention to poor women in rural areas. Many efforts have been directed to pulling them out of illiteracy and offering training in simple skills, Lu added.
The country succeeded in reducing the poverty-stricken population from 250 million in 1978 to the present 30 million.
On the walls of the exhibition hall were all 60 photos taken by Chinese rural women. They represent various subjects and have diversified styles.
(People's Daily October 25, 2001)