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NO.19 (October 1, 2003)

  • Environment Optimized for Chinese Women's Development
  • ACWF Sets Goals for Women's Undertakings
  • ACWF New Leaders Elected

    Environment Optimized for Chinese Women's Development

    --China's Ninth National Women's Congress was successfully convened in Beijing on August 22-26. Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and president of China, together with other Party and state leaders, attended the opening ceremony to convey their congratulations. Li Changchun, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, delivered a congratulatory speech on behalf of the CPC Central Committee. Vice-Premier Wu Yi attended the closing ceremony to extend her congratulations upon the complete success of the congress on behalf of the State Council and the National Working Committee on Women and Children under the State Council. After the congress ended, General Secretary Hu Jintao held a discussion with the new leadership of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) and some women delegates, and delivered an important address.
    The congress examined and adopted the report of ACWF's Eighth Executive Committee and the amendments to the ACWF's Constitution, and elected ACWF's new executive committee. The new executive committee elected Chen Muhua and Peng Peiyun as the ACWF's honorary presidents and Gu Xiuxian, vice-chairwoman of the NPC Standing Committee and former vice-president of ACWF, as the federation's new president.
    The following are slightly abridged excerpts from a statement made by Gu Xiulian and the answers given by her and the ACWF's Vice-President Hua Fuzhou to questions posed by reporters at a press conference sponsored by the State Council Information Office on August 14:
    China's Ninth National Women's Congress, scheduled to be convened on August 22 in Beijing, is a great event in the process of Chinese women's development, and also the first grand meeting of Chinese women in the new century. I'd like to take this opportunity to give you an introduction to the situation in the development of Chinese women.
    1.Headway has been made in the development of Chinese women, and the women's movement in China has advanced vigorously.
    The past five years have witnessed marked improvement in the situation of Chinese women and the rapid progress in women's undertakings. Chinese women have actively participated in the country's economic construction and social development, making great contributions and attaining outstanding achievements. Their rights and interests in economic, political, social and cultural fields and in their family life have been further realized.
    --Women's participation in the management of state and public affairs has grown continuously. At present, China has seven women Party and state leaders, and 14 women ministers and vice-ministers in the 29 ministries and commissions under the State Council. In 2001, the Party Central Committee called for women's representation in the Party committees, people's congresses, governments and people's political consultative conferences at all levels. Now, 5,056 women have assumed leading posts in the Party committees and governments at provincial, prefecture and county levels. Women's awareness of political participation has been strengthened, and the turn-out rate of women in the election of deputies to local people's congresses has reached 73.4 percent.
    --Women's rights to labor and employment have been further upheld. The awareness and capacity of rural women to rely on science and technology to increase income have grown. More than 100 million of them have studied and mastered one or two new agro-technologies and have emerged as a major force in rural economic development and ecological improvement. Now 37.9 percent of all urban employees are women. Small and medium-sized enterprises set up and run by women have grown rapidly. Regulations on labor protection for women employees have been further implemented.
    --The overall educational level of women has increased notably. There are 3.97 million female students in institutions of higher education nationwide, representing a rise of 2.67 million over the number five years ago. They take up 43.95 percent of the total university and college enrolment, up 6 percentage points over the total five years ago. Girl students take up 56.6 percent of the total enrolment at secondary vocational schools, while the percentage of women receiving adult education has grown by 37.6 percent over five years ago.
    --Women's health has shown marked improvement. The country has 3,067 facilities for maternity and child care, providing pre- and postnatal care for 86 percent of pregnant and lying-in women. The rate of childbirth in hospitals stands at 78.8 percent, up 12 percentage points over that five years ago. The average life expectancy of women has reached 73.6 years, 3.8 years more than that of men.
    --Women's right of person and the rights and interests of women that relate to marriage and family have been further guaranteed. Among the 350 million families nationwide, lawful marriages based on free choice and mutual love, and equal and harmonious family relations have become the mainstream. Women's right of person and the rights and interests of women related to property have been further ensured.
    2.With the implementation of the basic state policy of equality between men and women, the environment for Chinese women's development has been optimized.
    Since the Fourth World Conference on Women held in 1995, the Chinese Government has pooled vigorous efforts to implement the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, as well as the Political Declaration and Outcome Document adopted at the 23rd United Nations General Assembly Special Session. Effective measures have been taken to optimize the environment for the healthy development of women.
    --Formulating and completing development programs. On the basis of the achievement of major targets set in the Program for the Development of Chinese Women (1995-2000), the Chinese Government promulgated the Program for the Development of Chinese Women (2001-10). The new program identifies priority areas for women's development, and sets strategic objectives and measures for women's development in the first decade of the new century. This includes six aspects: women and political participation, women and the economy, women and education, women and health, women and law, and women and the environment. Implementation of the Program has been integrated into the national plan for economic and social development.
    --Establishing and improving the institutional framework. Over the past five years, the status and functions of the National Working Committee on Women and Children under the State Council, a special government department to oversee the implementation of the Program for the Development of Chinese Women, have been continuously strengthened. Its member units, with their number increasing from 28 in 1998 to the present 32, include almost all the functional departments under the State Council. All provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government and over 90 percent of the prefectures (cities) and counties (cities) across the country have set up working committees on women and children, forming a complete institutional framework from upper to lower levels. The Coordinating Group on the Rights and Interests of Women and Children, established at the end of 2001, is composed of 14 government departments and non-governmental organizations, including the Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs, the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Justice. This group provides an organizational guarantee for strengthening departmental cooperation and for protecting the rights and interests of women and children through socialized initiatives. At present, 350 similar coordinating groups have been established at provincial and prefectural levels nationwide. A socialized institutional framework for safeguarding women's rights and interests and for promoting women's development has been basically formed across the country.
    --Building up and completing a legal system. Over the past five years, China has paid greater attention to protecting women's rights and interests through strengthening its legal system. To date, a legal system for safeguarding women's rights and interests and promoting women's development has been formed. It takes the Constitution as the basis and the Law on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests as the main body, and is supported by other relevant laws. Since 2000, in the process of formulating and revising quite a number of laws closely related to women, including the Law on Population and Family Planning, the Marriage Law and the Law on Land Contract in Rural Areas, the National People's Congress, in accordance with the principle of safeguarding women's rights, enacted and amended relevant stipulations, thus ensuring that women's rights and interests are protected at the very beginning.
    3.Women's federations at all levels have given play to their role in promoting women's development.
    In the past five years, women's federations at various levels, keeping in mind the strategic ideas of "three represents" (i.e. represent the development trend of China's advanced productive forces, the orientation of China's advanced culture and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people) as their guiding ideology, have attached equal importance both to the development of women and to the protection of women's rights and interests. Three major campaigns related to women's development have been carried out in depth nationwide, including one which calls on rural women to learn to read and write and to learn income-generating skills and to emulate each other in achievements and contributions, one launched in cities to encourage urban women to make contributions to the country, and one focusing on fostering "five-good model families". In addition, four projects have been launched, embracing programs to help women become well-off through science and technology, to develop community services, to strengthen family ethics and to enhance women's educational level and professional competence, with each making continuous progress. The great amount of practical work that has been done in the interests of women has forcefully propelled the advancement of Chinese women. The main achievements include the following:
    --Women's federations have provided training in new agro-technologies for over 63 million rural women, in accordance with actual needs of rural development. To facilitate the reform of state-owned enterprises and urban management, women's federations have developed community services, and invigorated the establishment of re-employment guidance centers and training bases. A total of 5 million women have received training, while 2 million of them have been employed or re-employed.
    --In accordance with the country's overall plan for poverty relief, 950 million yuan (US$115 million) in small loans have been issued to help more than 2 million women emerge from poverty. In line with the west development strategy, a campaign for "building a beautiful homeland in the western region'' has been carried out. Nearly 200 million yuan was raised for the project of "mothers' water cellars", which has helped ease the shortage of drinking water for nearly 800,000 people in the western region.
    --In response to the strategy for sustainable development, the campaign for "women, homeland and environment" was launched and the "March 8 greening project" was vigorously pushed forward. These activities helped afforest 2.66 million hectares of land, and the United Nations Environment Program conferred the Global 500 Award for Environmental Achievement on the ACWF.
    --In keeping with the cultural needs of the masses of women, women's federations throughout the country have organized various activities, such as "health for women", "family culture and art festivals'' and "prompt each family to reject pornography, gambling and drugs". These activities, which advocate cultured, healthy and scientific ways of life, have attracted tens of millions of women and their families and promoted the advance of family and community culture. Other programs, such as one that provides women farmers with information on culture, science and technology and health, and those for fulfilling the "model women's post" and acting as "women volunteers", highlight the distinguishing features of the current times, call for the spirit of making contributions and attach great importance to the benefits for women. Encouraging results have been attained through all these activities. The Plan of Ethics Construction Among China's Little Citizens and the activity of "studying for love of the motherland" have attracted millions of children and teenagers nationwide and promoted their healthy growth. Public welfare activities sponsored by women's federations, such as the Spring Bud Project that helps destitute girl students, the Project for the Safe-Healthy Growth of Children and Teenagers, and Chinese Children's Charity Day, have received great support from numerous Chinese citizens and overseas personages. Over 300 million yuan was raised, and the fund was used to build more than 190 schools and to assist 750,000 girl drop-out students. All these efforts have contributed to improvements in the subsistence and development of children in poverty-stricken areas.
    --Women's federations have also actively participated in amendments to the Marriage Law, in the formulation of the Law on Land Contract in Rural Areas and in supervision over the enforcement of the Law on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests. They have put forward to the Central Party Committee, the National People's Congress and the State Council suggestions on women's employment, women's political participation and other issues of concern for women. This reflects the important role they have played in representing women in the management of state and public affairs.
    The development of Chinese women still faces problems that need to be addressed with urgency. Poverty remains the biggest barrier to the further advancement of women. The level of health and education among women living in poor areas is lower than the average level nationwide. The status quo in such fields as women's political participation, women's employment and protection of female workers' rights still lags behind the targets set for women's development. In some localities, violations of women's rights of person frequently occur, as well as cases of degrading social practices. These problems, however, arise alongside the process of development and advance. We firmly believe that with the care and attention given by the Party and the government, with the unremitting efforts made by women's federations at all levels and with the enthusiastic support of all social forces, these problems will be solved gradually in the course of progress in building a well-off society in an all-round way. We are fully confident of success in solving these problems.

    After delivering the statement, Gu Xiulian and the ACWF's Vice-President Hua Fuzhou answered questions posed by Chinese and foreign reporters.
    Question: A case of sexual harassment handled by the court a short time ago attracted the attention of people from all circles. What measures should be taken to protect women?
    Gu: In my view, sexual harassment is a kind of degrading behavior that insults women's personal dignity and infringes on women's right of person. I'm very glad that the case has aroused wide social concern. I appreciate the media's fight against this morally degenerate conduct, and its proposal for intensified moral education. With regard to legislation, relevant authorities are conducting investigation and research. Article 237 in Chapter Four of the Criminal Law concerning crimes that infringe upon the right of person and the democratic rights of citizens stipulates that whoever rapes or insults a woman using violence, coercion or other means is to be sentenced to up to five years of fixed-term imprisonment or criminal detention.
    Q: The issue of employment has drawn whole public attention. Women appear to be inferior to men with regard to employment. What measures has the ACWF taken to increase women's employment and what achievements have been made?
    Gu: The issue of employment is one of concern both to society and to each individual. The Chinese Government has adopted many measures to increase employment. The ACWF also attaches great importance to this issue and has taken many steps to help women find jobs. First, the ACWF has launched publicity and educational campaigns to help women revise their concept of employment. Second, women's federations at all levels have opened various training courses to improve women's capabilities. Third, women's federations have provided employment services. Fourth, community services have been set up to expand channels for women's employment. Fifth, support has been obtained from international projects, and new patterns for women's employment have been created. Over the past five years, we have trained more than 5 million laid-off women workers and helped more than 2 million of them find jobs. In the course of this work, we have gained much experience, such as the practice of supporting women to start up their own businesses with small loans and various ways of helping women find re-employment. We have also established many different kinds of training centers, where laid-off women workers can gain new knowledge for new careers. In addition to setting up job training centers, we have established facilities for women's training in cooperation with the UN Development Program. We will continue these efforts in the coming years, and we have set a goal for training 2 million laid-off and unemployed women and for providing various services to help them realize re-employment within the five-year term of the ACWF's new executive committee.
    We will not only work in cooperation with the government to assist laid-off and unemployed women workers, but also explore ways for them to start up private businesses, so as to provide more jobs for school graduates and surplus laborers. To achieve this, we have raised a new slogan: Create new posts, create new achievements and create a new life.
    Q: Many people consider that at present the interference of judicial departments in cases of family violence is rather weak. Most of them feel judicial departments should establish adequate procedures and introduce standard procedural mechanisms to handle such cases. What efforts have been made or are being pooled by women's federations in this regard?
    Hua: At present, China does not have a special law for curbing and opposing family violence. In 2001, when the Marriage Law was revised, the banning of family violence was, for the first time, written into the law. In my view, this is a legal stipulation. Women's federations at all levels have consistently paid attention to and addressed the problem of family violence in the following ways: In cooperation with judicial departments, we encourage victims to inform against, expose and sue the perpetrators. We also rely on rural village committees, urban neighborhood committees and police sub-stations to deal with such cases, and it has become a common practice that representatives from local women's federations attend relevant court hearings as jurors. The aforementioned efforts we made have done much to protect women's legitimate rights and interests.
    Q: Are there any problems related to rural women's land-related rights and interests? What measures has the ACWF taken to deal with these problems?
    Gu: Land is the basic means of production for rural women. Frequently in the past, married women and live-in sons-in-law were not provided with land. Following investigations, the ACWF submitted a report to the Central Government on problems concerning contracted land. Thus, when revising the Law on Land Contract in Rural Areas, the National People's Congress added the stipulation that women should have their own share of land.
    Q: Statistics from the Fifth National Census carried out in 2001 show that illiterate young and juvenile females make up a large proportion of the national total. Are there any measures designed to lower China's rate of illiteracy, particularly that of young and juvenile females? This year, the number of female university graduates has reached 800,000 as a result of enlarged enrolment four years ago, and the number is expected to grow by 30 percent annually in the coming years. Male graduates' employment rate and job opportunities obviously exceed those of female graduates, as sex discrimination still exists in employment. Has the government adopted any measures to ensure the full employment of female graduates? Are there any new employment channels for them?
    Gu: With regard to the question of wiping out illiteracy, the Ministry of Education takes it as a major task to universalize nine-year compulsory education. The Central Government grants support to the western region in this regard, while encouraging developed areas to solve the problem on their own. Guangdong Province in south China, for instance, has appropriated 400 million yuan to solve problems relating to the education of rural children. Every rural household with school-age children is registered for this purpose. Social forces have been mobilized in various localities to help the illiterate learn to read and white. All grass-roots women's federations and Youth League committees have participated in the work. The effort has helped more than 20 million people become literate, including 6.5 million in the past five years. In addition, women's federations have participated in various public welfare undertakings, such as Project Hope that extends assistance to poor students and the Spring Bud Program designed especially to help destitute girl students. These projects, designed to help wipe out illiteracy, serve as a supplement to the nine-year compulsory education system.
    On the question of employment, we have continuously appealed to the government against sex discrimination in employment by some enterprises. As employment is a top right, the basic state policy of equality between men and women should also be applied in employment. However, owing to certain strong traditions, strenuous efforts are called for to ensure employment for female graduates. Recently, some measures have been adopted to expand employment. For instance, the Central Committee of the Youth League called on university graduates to go to the western region as volunteers to help local development. This is a good method. I stayed in the west when I was young. I think such an experience helps young people to mature quickly, as it can enhance their understanding of society during the course of tempering themselves under tough conditions.
    The ACWF calls on women to strive for self-respect, self-confidence, self-reliance and self-improvement, and start up their own businesses in the market economy. While government assistance is sought to enlarge employment, the practice of relying on one's own efforts to start up a business is encouraged. There are many male reporters attending this press conference presided over by Minister Zhao Qizheng of the State Council Information Office. I wish you could extend more support to women.
    Q: On July 30, the State Council examined and adopted in principle new Provisions on the Management of Marriage Registration. There are controversies over abolishing the letters of introduction required from work units and the requirement of a pre-marriage physical check-up. What's your opinion on these issues? Recently, there has been a bestseller about various Chinese young people's "one-night stands". Some experts stated that the great change in Chinese people's attitude toward premarital sex and extramarital affairs indicates that China is quietly undergoing a sex revolution. What's your opinion about this?

    Gu: Marriage is a serious matter. First, I think that abolishing the letters of introduction offered by work units is for everybody's convenience. Second, I hold that pre-marital physical check-ups are necessary, even after the government's regulation is lifted, as it concerns personal health, hygiene and the prevention and control of disease. As we all know, the spread of AIDS is closely related to sex. If a couple gets married without having a physical check-up and if one of them has contracted AIDS, his or her spouse and their children may become infected. So I think physical check-ups are necessary for all couples, young and old, as health is of primary importance. As for letters of introduction, I think a circumspect attitude should be taken toward marriage, and both the husband and wife should take responsibility for each other. With regard to your question about the bestseller, personally I don't approve of extramarital affairs and pre-marital sex, and I consider it desirable to preserve China's fine traditions. Of course, when problems arise in a marriage, the couple can have a divorce. This is permitted by the Marriage Law. But current practices of having extramarital affairs before getting divorced, taking concubines and cohabiting have undermined accepted moral standards. Some young people may not agree with me, but I insist that the accepted ethical standards of conduct and living should be maintained. Many people have contracted AIDS through drug abuse and prostitution. But a normal marital life won't spread sex-related diseases. The Chinese nation is a great nation with a 5,000-year-old civilization. Ethics are called for in all countries. Having extramarital affairs and living together outside of the marriage bond do not represent emancipation of the mind. The system of monogamy practiced by China should be followed, otherwise there will be chaos.

    ACWF Sets Goals for Women's Undertakings

    While delivering a report to China's Ninth National Women's Congress on behalf of the Eighth Executive Committee of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), Gu Xiulian, executive president of the presidium of the congress, outlined the tasks for the development of women's undertakings in China in the next five years. The main achievements to be made are in the following six aspects:
    --Increasing women' s working opportunities and posts, enhancing the level of employment and rationalizing the employment structure. Efforts will be pooled to guide and support excess rural women laborers to enter non-agricultural sectors or move to cities or towns. This would bring them more employment and development opportunities and sharply cut down the number of women in poverty.
    --Increasing the number of women entering politics. While the proportion of women deputies and women members in the people's congresses and the people's political consultative conferences at various levels will be increased considerably, that of women in leading bodies at all levels will be raised step by step. The consciousness and capacity of women at grass-roots levels to participate in democratic elections, democratic decision-making, democratic management and democratic supervision will be enhanced significantly.
    --Greatly reducing the number of illiterate young and middle-aged women. The situation in which school-age girls are deprived of education or have to drop out of school will be put to an end. The average schooling of women is expected to reach the advanced level of developing countries, and the proportion of women professionals engaged in high-tech and management sectors will increase on an annual basis.
    --Steadily improving basic healthcare services for women and children, particularly those in rural and western areas, as well as the reproduction health of women. The environment for promoting the health of women and children will be improved simultaneously.
    --Completing legislation and policies that guarantee equality of men and women and the healthy growth of children. Violations of the law and criminal activities and repulsive social phenomena that infringe upon the rights and interests of women and children will meet with more severe suppression. The capacity of women and children to safeguard their own rights and interests in accordance with the law will be greatly strengthened.
    --Considerably raising the level of social security, social welfare and social service enjoyed by women and children. Education in equality of men and women will be gradually included in the content of national education, and quotas with distinction between the sexes will be increased in national statistics.
    Gu noted that achievement of these goals calls for laying a strong material foundation in the process of building a well-off society in an all-round way and creating a sound social environment. It also requires women of all nationalities and all circles to gain a clear understanding of their mission, to pluck up the courage to put their ideals into practice and to carry out innovation, and to contribute enthusiastically to spurring the country's all-round socioeconomic progress.

    ACWF Electes New Leaders

    The All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), with a glorious history of 45 years, recently completed the first reshuffle of its leadership in the new century. The Second Plenary Session of China's Ninth National Women's Congress elected its new executive committee on August 25. On the same day, the executive committee's first session electedChen Muhua and Peng Peiyun as the ACWF's honorary presidents and Gu Xiulian as its new president.
    The new executive committee is composed of 245 members, including 31, or 12.65 percent of the total, from ethnic minority nationalities. Some 239 members, or 97.55 percent of the total, have an education above the college level. The average age of the new executive committee is 49.71, 4.36 years younger than its predecessor. There are 39 members under the age of 45, accounting for 24.08 percent of the total. The youngest member is 27 years old.
    The ACWF's vice-presidents elected at the first session of China's Ninth National Women's Congress by secret ballot includeHuang Qingyi, Basang, Shen Shuji, Xie Lijuan, Liu Yazhi, Wang Jirong, Zhang Meiying, Chen Xiurong, Huang Yanrong, Wu Qidi, Mo Wenxiu, Zhao Shaohua and Liu Xiaolian.
    In addition, the session elected the ACWF's 31 standing committee members, and voted forHuang Qingyi as first secretary of the secretariat and Shen Shuji, Chen Xiurong, Mo Wenxiu, Zhao Shaohua, Hong Tianhui, Zhen Yan and Zhang Shiping as members of the secretariat.

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