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Employment key to gender equality, say women's advocates

By Luo Wangshuin Xi'an | China Daily | Updated: 2016-05-27 07:38

China can empower women and eradicate gender inequality by improving employment opportunities and encouraging entrepreneurship among females, according to Song Xiuyan, vice-president of the All-China Women's Federation.

Between mid-2009 and the end of 2015, the federation "took action to encourage women's employment and entrepreneurship" by coordinating with financial departments, local governments and banks to provide more than 290 billion yuan ($44.23 billion) of discounted government loans and small loans to women across the country, encouraging them to find employment or start their own businesses.

The federation also launched about 8,100 entrepreneurship hubs for female college students across the country and selected more than 20,000 women entrepreneurs to be mentors and provide internships, as well as guide and train those students with entrepreneurial spirit.

"China has made and will make great progress in terms of women's empowerment and gender equality," said Lakshimi Puri, UN assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director of UN Women, adding that China's achievements, as the second largest economy, are important to the world.

Employment eradicates poverty, and women's employment has lifted thousands of women and their families out of poverty, Puri said.

"Women's employment is essential for gender equality. Once women are independent financially, they are no longer dependent on men, making them less vulnerable and stronger," she added.

China hosted the Women 20 Meeting, a G20 engagement group to promote gender inclusive economic growth, this week. Women's employment and entrepreneurship were two of the main topics of discussion.

Yan Junhui, a female entrepreneur in Chengdu, Sichuan province, hires more than 30,000 women from rural and mountainous areas to make embroidery for her company.

"Since the earthquake struck my hometown in 2008, women's organizations and the local government have initiated a project to help women in rural and mountainous areas sell their embroidery. Women do not have to leave their homes or travel to factories, but they can do their work at home, in front of their farm or at the school gate when picking up their children from school," Yan said. She added that the project provides training for contributors so that they understand the latest fashion trends and ensure their products are suited to the market.

Her company sells these products to traders in cities across China and worldwide.

According to the All-China Women's Federation, in 2013, the total number of women employed nationwide was 346.4 million, about 45 percent of the total employed population.

In the same year, the number of middle-ranking and senior female professional and technical personnel had reached 6.61 million, about 44 percent of the total and a 9-percent increase from 2000.

There is steady growth in the number of women entrepreneurs in China, and they now account for about one quarter of the total.

"In various fields including economic, education, science and technology, female talent is booming. Many of them have received notable awards, both at home and abroad," said Mu Hong, director of the international communication department of the All-China Women's Federation.

"The global society pays attention to China's development regarding gender equality and is willing to cooperate with China and learn from our success."

Du Juan contributed to this story.

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