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Spring Blossom Project Helps 1.6 Million Girls Back School

A project initiated by China Children and Teenagers' Fund (CCTF) has helped approximately 1.6 Chinese girls who discontinued studying 16 years ago to return to their classrooms.


The project, entitled "Spring Blossom", has raised more than 600 million yuan (about US$740,000), some of which has been used to build around 300 schools in 30 Chinese mainland provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government.


CCTF launched "Spring Blossom Project" in 1989, when a report from the fourth national census showed that 4.8 million kids aged 7 through 14 were deprived of education, 83 percent of which were girls.


Besides educational problems, adolescent girls, especially in poverty-stricken regions, are facing such barriers as family and sexual violence, malnutrition, social and sexual discrimination and even desertion, Jiang Yue'e, head of Children's section of All-China Women's Federation(ACWF) said in a seminar held on Wednesday.


"China has achieved a lot in the development of law and regulations related to gender equality," said Dr. Christian Voumard, UNICEF representative to China on the seminar, "while new challenging issues have emerged in this transitional period towards the market economy."


There has been a growing unbalanced gender ratio at birth, which currently stands at 117 boys for every 100 girls. More girls are left behind by parents than boys due to farmers' migration and the ratio of HIV-carrying women has more than doubled from 15 to 39 percent between 1998 and 2004, Voumard added.


ACWF has advocated China's fundamental national policy of gender equality to parents and the public through its nation-wide branches, promoting participation in missions to give girls practical help, Jiang Yue'e said.


Since 2002, ACWF has worked in cooperation with the UK Department for International Development (DFID) China to provide poor adolescent girls with skills training.


The focus is on building the skills of poor girls, many of whom may be functionally illiterate, extend their capabilities, improve their livelihoods and build up their self-confidence and independence, said Jiang.


A three-day seminar on girl's development in China, at the cosponsorship of ACWF, UNICEF China and DRID China, started on Wednesday. Participants will share experiences and achievements in endeavoring to help weak girls within past decade.


(Xinhua News Agency November 11, 2005)


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