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Connecting community

By Tang Zhe | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-02 14:33

Connecting community

Qi Lixia (left) arranges a singing group for women migrant workers at the Mulan community activity center in Changping district, Beijing.

A community activity center operating in Beijing is aiming to give migrant women an outlet for fun and friends. Tang Zhe reports.

In every major city in China, you will find a certain group of women.

They are the women who left their hometowns after middle school to work in factories in big cities. They return home at about age 24, caving to family pressure to marry and have a baby. They then return to the cities for work, their children left at home to be raised by their grandparents.

Connecting community

If a woman is over 25 or has a child, she will struggle to find work in a standard factory and be forced to take a job in a mill where the working conditions are often poor. Older women are believed to be slower and less skilled.

Former factory worker Qi Lixia knows all too well the life of the women working on the assembly lines far from home.

"The most laborious job I had required us to work on the assembly line for 14 hours a day, sometimes even overnight," says the Henan native, who left her 3-year-old son at home to travel to Guangdong province's Shenzhen with her husband in 2002.

"When I worked in a factory producing bicycle belts, I was so afraid of being slow that I dreamed about being scolded by the manager. There was huge pressure.

"The girls always have lots of beautiful dreams, but when they have to get up at 7 in the morning and work untill 11 at night, all those dreams and your sense of self just disappears," Qi says.

But Qi's life changed when she came into contact with a nonprofit organization operating near her factory in Shenzhen.

"The organization mainly taught the women how to protect themselves in romantic relationships, since most of the workers in Shenzhen are women, and they tend to find comfort in love because of the pressure of work and loneliness," Qi says.

"It also taught us how to protect our rights through legal processes and organized several hobby groups, such as literature, law and dance groups."

The classes had a life-changing effect on Qi, and she decided to help her peers to also break up their monotonous routines.

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