Rural women gaining higher social status through green Business
The white tea planation of Anji county, Huzhou City, southeast China's Zhejiang province. [Photo: China Plus]
The importance of building an eco-friendly society has been increasingly recognized around the world in recent years. While China's efforts to promote green development have also earned it global recognition, today, this green business campaign is also helping more women in rural areas improve their social status in east China's Zhejiang province.
Located in Zhejiang Province, Anji County is renowned for its white tea- a rare type of green tea that has an incredible taste and possesses many health benefits. Because of its rarity, this tea is classified among the most valuable teas of China.
Once an ordinary villager and now a successful entrepreneur, 49-year-old Song Changmei knows exactly what gives Anji tea its uniqueness.
"We understand the importance of lucid waters and lush mountains, and so we improve the quality of our tea through protecting the clearer waters, the clean air and our whole ecosystem. The ecosystem is just like a cycle - with an organically safe tea packaging process, and a beautiful environment that promises us high quality tea products."
"Lucid Waters and Lush Mountains Are Invaluable Assets" campaign was first proposed in 2005 when Chinese President Xi Jinping was the Party chief of Zhejiang province, during his visit to Anji County of Huzhou city.
Since then, the local government of Huzhou City has continually strived to improve its environmental strategy, and the city has become the first completely ecological city in China.
And the hilly areas of Anji county, covered with tea plantations, is one of the best proof of this achievements. Here, you can see a sea of green plantations under the blue skies, surrounded with clear waters. During the tea picking season in spring, the air from time to time is filled with laughter from farmers and tea pickers.
52 years old Wu Zhongyin is a tea grower.
"I'm so happy - everyday! I used to be poor, but now my life has changed for the better thanks to growing tea. That's why I'm happy."
Song Changmei says the key to leaving poverty behind is the grasp of advanced farming techniques.
"I used to be a housewife and knew nothing about Tea. In 1992, I went to China's Tea Research Institute and learned about the tea planting technology. I had a dream after I came back to my hometown that I wanted to spread the knowledge acquired and help more local women get involved in it."
Living in villages, Chinese women like Song- once had zero to little chance of making their own way in the world. But today, they have much freedom and access to opportunities to seek different career paths, all thanks to societal development policies put in place by the government, and designed to empower women.
Under the local government's support, Song Changmei founded her women's tea co-operative society in the early 21st century. She has since introduced hundreds of impoverished women to employers near and far. Each of these women can now earn up to 10 thousand yuan, or nearly USD 1400 a month.
At a beautiful meeting room near the tea garden, Song Changmei and her female employees are busy discussing the tea production and sales issues they are currently experiencing.
Li Fenyin is among them. She is among the workers who used to be a housewife but now is an expert in Tea marketing.
"Most of my clients have been acquired through me. With a good brand reputation, the sales work gives me a sense of achievement. I think building our own qualified brand is the key in successful marketing."
After years of being full-time housewives, finally these women discovered that going after and having a successful occupation can be a means of self-expression. Following that discovery, they began to learn how to handle financial matters and work out a budget. Later on, after the women had contributed to their household budgets, the men began to see them in a different light.
Another worker, Chen hong, says her personal growth is obvious.
"I've learned a lot since I joined this tea co-operative society, I can feel my progress, now my family status has also been significantly improved. Now I have a better say in everything to do with my family."
Song Changmei acknowledged how important a woman's role is both at work and at home- because women are known to be naturals at multi-tasking and this can also help them in realizing their personal worth.
"They have stable income now and their families are much happier than before. From housewives to professionals, they've witnessed their personal development, and they're much more confident in dealing with different problems they encounter in life. Now, with a higher social status, they're also more willing to share social responsibilities."
Improved opportunities for women in the countryside comes as a result of the gender equality campaign that has been taking place in the country today, more than any other time in the country's history.
A recent report released by zhaopin.com shows improving career ratios for women among civil servants, national legislators, political advisors and business managers.
Song Changmei, who is also a party representative in the CPPCC, owes her achievements to both the social environment and her personal efforts.
"I think today, a woman's social status is much higher. Some of our tea co-operative society members are also local village officials. As for me, growing from just being a regular farmer to a party representative, every foot print of my progress was engraved with the leaves of the white tea. I couldn't be who I am now without these beautiful tea plantations in my hometown. I have always believed that one can create a better future through hard work."