Zhang Yuanlan, a woman who lives in Jiepai Village, in Longdong, a town in Xiangxiang, in Central China's Hunan Province, is known for successfully managing an underwear-processing factory.
During the past six years, Zhang has worked with her husband, Shen Jianjiang, to expand their factory from less than 100 square meters to more than 1,000 square meters. During that time, the couple has also offered jobs to 150-plus rural women.
In the past, most of the villagers liked to play cards to kill their spare time. Now, the villagers, especially women, earn a good living by processing underwear in Zhang's factory. Jiepai has evolved from a "dapai (playing cards)" village into a "jiepai (quit playing cards)" village.
"For me, the most important thing is that I have given mothers a reason to stay in their hometown, because they can earn a living while they take care of their children," says Zhang.
Zhang and her husband's company is named Neixiu Clothing Limited. The majority of the company's employees are women. The underwear produced in the factory is sold overseas, including in the United States, South Africa, and various European and Southeast Asian countries.
Women who work in the factory earn stable incomes. They are able to look after both the young and the elderly in their families, while at the same time they are able to earn a good living and financially support their families.
Early in 2010, Zhang and her husband, who also worked in the garment-processing industry, returned to their hometown, Xiangxiang. They spent 250,000 yuan to rent a big room, in a basement, and transform that room into a workshop. The workshop became Jiepai's first underwear-processing workshop.
Most of the locals had never processed underwear before they were employed by Zhang. So, Zhang had to train her employees. She cared a lot about communicating with her fellow villagers, especially rural women.
Since she has been elected a member of the executive committee of the women's federation of Longdong, Zhang has attached great importance to promoting the CPC (Communist Party of China) and women's federation's policies that benefit women.
"Women in my hometown are willing to work in my company. They have earned a good living, and their status in families has been raised. In the past, they spent most of their time doing housework. Now, they bring a considerable amount of money back home. Their parents-in-law help them take care of their family chores, so the women can concentrate on their work," Zhang explains.
Zhang, who is in her 40s, is looking forward to her promising future. The women workers in her company also have good wishes for the future. "We don't need to worry about receiving orders. The most important thing is that I have created job opportunities for many women," Zhang says.
By receiving training and equipment, dozens of women, who used to spend their time playing cards, have become competent "cadres" at Zhang's factory. Zhang often encourages her employees to buy tasty foods and nice-looking clothes. She wants them to look beautiful and feel confident.
Zhang hopes to run a bigger business. "I hope women in the countryside can live rich and colorful lives. They should practice the spirit of 'self-esteem, self-confidence, self-reliance and self improvement', and they should hold up 'half the sky' of the development in our village," Zhang says.
(Source: Women of China English Monthly November 2018 issue)