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NGOs Help Disadvantaged Girls
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Tang Shaoxin, a Dong minority, is an inspiration to the other inhabitants of her remote village in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southwest China.


Tang is a smart, hard-working and lucky young woman reaping the benefits of a local project dubbed the "Golden Phoenix Plan." The plan, funded by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), assists disadvantaged girls in rural areas with high school education.


In her final year at Guangxi Normal College, the 22-year-old's life differs dramatically from that of other women her age in the village, most of whom were married young and have children.


"Training and funding for rural women is a key step to enhancing rural labor resources and improving their job skills in cities," said Zheng Yan, a senior official with the All-China Women's Federation.


Zheng attended a brainstorming session yesterday on possible channels to help disadvantaged rural women and girls access educational resources and job opportunities.


The seminar, sponsored by Beijing Cultural Development Center for Rural Women and Plan China (a regional branch of Plan International, a US-based non-profit NGO) attracted training planners, educational experts, fund raisers and policy-makers from across China.


Peng Peiyun, former chief of the Women and Children Working Committee under the State Council, praised the work of NGOs and local communities in providing training for disadvantaged rural women and girls.


The Beijing rural women's center is considered a successful pilot project for China. Initiated in 1998, the center has trained nearly 5,000 disadvantaged rural women and girls aged between 15 and 20, who are lacking high school education. They can attend free courses such as basic computer skills, hairdressing and catering industry service skills.


Most of the candidates are from the vast western provinces, including northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Gansu Province and southwest China's Guangxi.


The training involves a one or three-month session, round-trip tickets, daily meals and accommodation.


They are taught job skills as well as self-esteem and confidence. Many find positions in cities after they leave the center, while some, about 15 percent of trainees, return home.


"I really admire the center's training model No matter if they stay or leave, all of them have been taught with gender equality and public service knowledge, which is essential to being an enlightened woman," said Zang Jian, a researcher at Peking University.


Wu Qing, one of the center's sponsors, stressed the role of women in families and communities and their role in creating harmony in society.


"If you want to change the world, change women first," Wu said.


(China Daily March 31, 2006)

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