A deputy to the Ninth National People's Congress (NPC) from an ethnic minority group in northwest China called for more government aid to ensure equal schooling opportunities for rural children, especially rural girls, in her native county.
Ma Xiangmen, a deputy of Bao'an nationality, one of the smallest ethnic groups in China with a population of 10,000, said it is of utter importance to raise the education level of her people and enhance the group's ties with other nationalities in China.
The 27-year old farmer from Jishishan county in Gansu Province is now running a workshop of traditional Bao'an art and craft works, such as swords and knives.
Ma is the only NPC deputy from her group and certainly one of the best-known member of her group.
She was also the youngest deputy to the Ninth NPC when she was elected four years ago.
She admitted that her home town is much more backward in comparison with the coastal regions. For example, poor farmers would prefer to let boys go to school, and would not send girls to school unless they have the money to do so.
Born and raised in a poor mountainous area, Ma knows the weal and woe of her people.
At last year's session, she filed a motion for the building of irrigation and hydropower projects in her home county.
Local authorities soon acted on the motion. A hydropower plant was kicked off in 2000, while an irrigation project is expected to be started this year, ensuring watering of more than 10,000 hectares of farmlands and supplying drinking water to 6,000 people.
The projects have won wide praise from her fellow people and made her very proud.
For the session of this year, Ma said she will raise a motion for massive afforestation efforts to rein in serious soil erosion and improve the local ecological environment.
Ma recalled that she was very nervous when she was interviewed by reporters upon her arrival in Beijing for her first NPC annual session in 1998.
"Now I am much more experienced. I will strive to be a competent NPC deputy, and reflect the will of my people," she said.
(People’s Daily 03/05/2001)