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Hope Blossoms as Girls Helped Back to School

A project initiated by the China Children and Teenagers' Fund has helped around 1.6 million poor Chinese girls who discontinued their studies to return to the classroom.


The "Spring Blossom" project has already raised more than 600 million yuan (about US$74 million), some of which has been used to build around 300 schools across China.


The China Children and Teenagers' Fund launched the project in 1989, when a report from the fourth national census showed that 4.8 million youngsters aged 7-14 were deprived of an education, 83 percent of them girls.


Besides the lack of education, girls especially in poverty-stricken regions often face other problems such as sexual violence, malnutrition, social and sexual discrimination and even desertion, said Jiang Yue'e, head of the Children's section of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) during a recent seminar.


"China has achieved a lot in the development of law and regulations related to gender equality," said Dr Christian Voumard, representative of the United Nation's Children's Fund (UNICEF) to China at the seminar. But, he added, "new challenging issues have emerged in this transitional period towards the market economy."


There is a growing imbalance in terms of the gender ratio at birth; currently there are 117 boys for every 100 girls. More girls are left behind by their parents than boys when farmers migrate. Plus, the ratio of HIV-carrying women more than doubled between 1998 and 2004 from 15 to 39 per cent, Voumard added.


The ACWF has advocated China's fundamental national policy of gender equality to parents and the general public through its nationwide branches and tried to give girls practical help, Jiang said.


Since 2002, the ACWF has worked with the UK Department for International Development China to train poor adolescent girls.


The focus is on building up the youngsters' capabilities, bolstering their self-confidence and independence, said Jiang.


(China Daily November 15, 2005)

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