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From laid-off worker to national legislator, Jiao hasn't forgotten her roots

By Ma Chi | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-03-15 08:34

From laid-off worker to national legislator, Jiao hasn't forgotten her roots

Jiao Wenyu. [Photo/Xinhua]

From losing her job as a young woman and sleeping on the street, Jiao Wenyu has come a long way to be one of China's national legislators.

In 1999, 23-year-old Jiao was laid-off and was forced to return to her home and do farm work.

Not having expected such a setback, Jiao felt humiliated and abandoned by society.

Later, Jiao read an article about housekeeping services in a newspaper and saw the opportunities. Believing this trade had a large market demand, she decided to start her own household service business.

After founding her company in Dezhou, Shandong province, she and three employees had no money to pay for accommodation and, sometimes, they slept on the street. To find potential customers, she visited a host of residential communities in the city, but after six months, the fledgling business had not secured any deals.

Jiao and her employees had to do cleaning jobs on a construction site to make ends meet. To meet the deadline, the four slept on the construction site and ate steamed buns with pickles and drank tap water.

"The hardest job is to clean the skirting board. Squatting is tiresome. When our legs were numb, we knelt on the ground to keep cleaning. After a long time, the knees were broken and we wrapped them up with plastic bag to keep working," Jiao recalled.

In return for such hardship, Jiao earned merely a few hundred yuan from the construction site - not enough to pay the salary of her workers. Seeing no future, some employees quit.

In 2001, Jiao's company was hired to clean the exterior of a building. With no employees daring to work high above the ground, she tied the rope to her body and started cleaning the wall.

"I was very scared, but that's my job," Jiao said.

The company made a small fortune from the work and established a name in the market, with more and more customers coming to them.

In 2002, Jiao's company broke into the market of commercial building cleaning. At the time, many employees complained that cleaning toilets was shameful and were reluctant to do it.

To persuade her workers, Jiao said to them: "There is no shame in making money with our own hands. We can only become rich by putting our pride aside. We women can have personal independence only after being independent economically."

She took the lead in cleaning the toilets, and gradually some employees who were initially reluctant followed.

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