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China Daily Website

Taiwan shop helps rural women

Updated: 2013-06-13 14:46

Across the strait, people in Taiwan are also busy celebrating Dragon Boat Festival with their own zongzi, called rice dumplings. But at one popular restaurant in Taipei, it's about more than just the food -- it's also about the people who work there.

On Taiwan's north shore, a local store has become all the rage, especially as we get close to the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. Customers here are grabbing the last pork dumplings at the Shinong Pork Dumplings store, buying their supply of the famous delicacy that is linked to the annual holiday.

Lin Yang said, "But what makes this shop unique is the women who work here. From staffing the counters to making each and every dumpling by hand, these women are the heart and soul of this business."

Outside, a prominent sign reads Tian Ma Ma, or "Country Ma Ma." This is a seal of approval from the Taiwan authorities that this shop is helping to expand job opportunities for rural women.

Rice dumplings have always been prominent here on the north shore as a favorite snack among fishermen. But for the longest time, most women simply made them at home for their husbands to take out to sea, and didn't have much in terms of careers of their own.

So in 2003, the local agricultural association decided to help these women open up a rice dumpling store, with financial support from the Council of Agriculture in Taipei.

Hsu Ya-huei has worked in this shop since 2003, and has personally benefited by this opportunity.

Coming here at first, I didn't even know how to make dumplings, but now I can. It's also increased our family income. Our kids can now go to tuition courses afterschool. We couldn't afford a computer before, but now we can. We can even buy them the latest smartphones that they want.

This isn't the only shop with a mission to help rural women. The Country Ma Ma program has been in existence since 2003, and today, they have over 140 locations dotted across the island.

Chou Zuo-nan, a Council of Agriculture officials, says the council plays both training and quality control roles for these businesses. They help many of female entrepreneurs learn how to run a business, and periodically inspect restaurants to make sure they are up to par.

We use to do these home economics classes in rural areas, and we found that rural women had very good skills for homemaking. Plus they have local knowledge of foods and ingredients. So we discovered was a great career potential for them to exploit. So we worked with them to start Tian Ma Ma and attract tourists to come try their home cooking.

Back at the dumpling shop, The Dragon Boat Festival is the busiest time of year. The 20 women who work here make up to 18,000 dumplings a day, and those dumplings are always sold out.

Many customers drive all the way from Taipei, for about an hour, to buy some for family get togethers during the holiday.