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Plan Helps Jobless Women

A revolutionary programme that gives start-up loans to new women-owned businesses has helped 1,319 people find work in its first three years.

The so-called "Tianjin model" is providing these women the start-up funds for their own enterprises, noted Shen Shuji, vice-president of the All-China Women's Federation, at a recent review meeting for the programme.

The federation administers it with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid).

The northern industrial city of Tianjin is a key place to offer such a plan because unemployment is high. More than 60 percent of the jobless are women, the federation said.

Wang Rong is a major beneficiary of the programme. She lost her job five years ago and could hardly pay her daughter's college bills. Wang picked up odd jobs for two years to make ends meet but found herself exhausted and unsatisfied.

Then she landed a 4,000-yuan (US$483) loan from the credit project of the Tianjin Women's Federation, which helped her start a four-person sweater-knitting workshop. With another small loan, she expanded the workshop.

She built up a sound credit history by repaying her debts, so the federation helped her take out a 70,000-yuan (US$8,454) loan from a local commercial bank to start her present company at the Tianjin Women's Business Incubator Centre.

"Without the co-operation project, I would never have been where I am," said Wang, now general manager of the Tianjin Rongzi Industry and Trading Co Ltd.

Federation President Wang Zhiqiu said the co-operation has US$900,000 for its small loans.

Since its first grant in December 1999 through October 2001, the project has granted a total of 5.5 million yuan (US$660,000). The repayment rate is 100 per cent.

Of 212 debtors whose credit has run a full year, more than half have repaid within the year and some have even developed small-sized private enterprises that use the further assistance of the incubator centre.

Guo Ruixiang, a UNDP project official, praised the Tianjin programme. More funds are needed, she said, to help more women and create more jobs.

(China Daily December 18, 2001)

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