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Poverty Linked to Low Education for Western Chinese Women
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Chen Wenjiang, vice president of the Philosophy and Social Science Institute of the Lanzhou University, said on Tuesday that low economic and social development in western regions holds the key to local women’s educational level, with gender equality also to be considered.


The discrepancy in the education levels of men and women between urban and rural areas is striking, particularly in western regions, said Prof. Chen, speaking at the Female Education and Gender Equality Forum, one of four parallel forums of the Third Cross-Straits Women Development Seminar which was held from September 19-20 in Beijing.


Chen’s conclusions drew from “Monitoring and Researching Western China’s Social and Economic Development”, a project organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology’s National Research Center for Development, conducted from July 2004 to February 2005 with financial aid given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway.


The project showed that a quarter of rural residents over 7 had never received formal education, while this figure dropped to 6.4 percent in urban areas. Moreover, 23.3 percent of rural males under 20 had dropped out from school, as opposed to 24.3 percent of females.


It is the economic development level and educational resources conditions that fundamentally affect the educational levels of people living in urban and rural areas, Chen said. These regions’ low economic levels and lack of access to educational resources create negative environments for residents to persevere in school, Chen added.


“But this point, in respect of the women, means that their actual situation in receiving education is consequences of dual-effects – a low gender position and regional underdevelopment. As an under-representative group in the comparatively backward regions, the women become inexorably the first victim in receiving the abjectly limited educational resources. For instance, if a pair of impoverished rural couple can only support only one of their children to go to school, they definitely will choose the boy instead of his elder or younger sister. We have seen many cases like this in our research,” said Chen, who is also assessing expert in the national social science foundation and legislation advisor of the Gansu Provincial People’s Congress’s Standing Committee, and responsible for the study of that project in Gansu, Qinghai provinces and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.


For this reason, the removal of the educational gender discrepancy is to ramp up poverty relief, to wipe out all elements contributing to the widening educational and social gap between eastern and western China, Prof. Chen highlighted.


Eleven scholars and experts from mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao presented their speeches at the forum on Tuesday, sharing views and experiences on the fields of female education and gender equality.


( by staff reporter Zhang Tingting, September 20, 2006)

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