More than 13,000 poverty-stricken adolescent girls will have access to a special education and training program over the next three years, which is expected to help them create a better life for themselves with their own hands.
The program, with a budget of US$3.7 million from the British Government, was officially launched yesterday. It is the first partnership project between the Chinese and British governments in the field of social development.
The project focuses on the educational and skills requirements of the poorest adolescent girls in six counties of Southwest China's Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, and Northwest China's Gansu Province.
It also integrates training with advocacy of gender rights and life skills to increase the girls' awareness of gender inequality and cut away negative social attitudes.
Catherine Nettleton, a counselor with the British Embassy, said the partnership represents an "important" collaboration between the two governments to promote shared objectives of poverty reduction and increased equality between men and women.
"The empowerment of women is an essential precondition for the elimination of poverty," she said.
Although China has made notable improvements in the status of women since 1949, women in China, especially among the poor, still face inequalities in economic development, and access to education and health services, according to Nettleton.
Gu Xiulian, vice-president of the All-China Women's Federation, agreed with Nettleton that investment in education for girls in the countryside is the "single most effective way to reduce poverty."
Gu said women are already the main laborers of rural China, with more and more men in villages choosing to take temporary jobs in large cities.
"Training one girl in production skills is the most direct way to help one rural family escape poverty," said Gu.
She said past studies have found that women with even a few years of basic education have healthier families and are more likely to work their way out of poverty and send their children to school.
(China Daily November 7, 2002)