A student from a major university in central China's Hunan Province who was selected to work in a grassroots organizations in Hunan's Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture in 2017, recently shared her experience with China Women's News.
Shi Piao was among 14 students sent by the local government of Hunan to work in Xiangxi for two to three years after strict recruitment and training, working as a poverty-alleviation official and vice president of the local women's federation in Minle town.
"I have been working here for months. During this period, I have come into contact with many new experiences, and seen many gains in services and growth," Shi said.
"Although I am comparatively fresh here, I can deeply feel the power of poverty-alleviation, lead by the grassroots female officials from different levels.
"Furthermore, I hope I can adjust to my position for better providing services for the people," she added.
Learning Miao Language
Minle is in Huayuan County, where people from the Miao ethnic group make up around 77.3 percent of the total population of 315,000.
Most people there can only speak the Miao language, especially the elderly. More young people can speak Mandarin. However, such young adults mostly work in the cities, so elderly people, women and children are left in the rural areas alone.
Shi said: "Some elderly people speak the Miao language when they come to the government office for help or for policies' advice. I cannot understand what they said, and I have to ask my colleges for help."
The language was the first difficulty for Shi to overcome. "When we visited the rural areas, the peasants all speak the Miao language, so I need a translator," Shi said.
Locals cannot clearly express their feelings and opinions in Mandarin, so Shi began to learn the Miao language herself to better communicate with the villagers.
Leading Women to Work for Rural Revitalization
During the process of social development, women have often been placed in a disadvantageous position. Although the matrilineal social relics are relatively well preserved in Xiangxi, women's positions are not as important as before.
They are no longer the center of the social mainstream, and they are excluded from much rural economic construction.
With the process of targeted poverty alleviation, initiatives from women's federations, and the introduction of policies, local women's sense of purpose has begun to awake.
They have also gradually grown to believe that they have the ability to get rid of poverty by starting up businesses and engaging in the rural revitalization.
Shi Wenzu, who lives in local Shibadong Village, has set an example for women. She was the wife of a migrant worker and just looked after her grandson before President Xi Jinping's visit to the village in 2013.
The local government began to develop rural tourism after then, and established Miao Embroidery Cooperatives. Shi Wenzu participated after encouragement from local officials.
In order to support the Miao embroidery industry and promote their embroidery skills, women's federations also organized over 10 training courses to promote Miao embroidery products by cooperating with other companies.
Now, most of the "left-behind" women like Shi Wenzu have participated in the cooperative.
"I never thought that a small embroidery needle can enable me to make money," Shi Wenzu added.
Influencing with each other
There is a philosophy that social workers can bring together those who have the same trouble and solve it by mutual help, Shi Piao learned at her university.
Every group member is an individual, and their interactions can affect others.
"There are many examples of influencing other people with their own experiences in the grassroots organizations," Shi Piao said.
The local female college students are also an important force to promote poverty alleviation. In the last summer holiday, the Party Committee of the Minle Township organized a third-party assessment team, composed of college students from Minle Township, to investigate in the poverty alleviation work.
In the team, women account for two thirds. Shi Piao visited villagers with them. During the process, she found women are better at establishing relations with local people compared with men.
Women's unique advantages in terms of interpersonal communication can enable them to shorten distances with strangers. In addition, they also have the advantage of being able to speak the Miao language, which can be helpful to guarantee policy implementation.
At Miao Embroidery Cooperative and Ginger Cooperative impoverished women can learn new skills and deal with problems that arise during the interactions.
"The female officials, female warm-hearted people and impoverished women all gather together to form a group. The members have different majors, resources, and abilities, which can better help them get rid of poverty under the leadership of women's federation," Shi Piao said.
"Those different kinds of cooperatives and skills training courses are all measures to help other people to help themselves," Shi Piao said.
"In my mind, the women's federations are promoters for rural revitalization, because we have all experienced the process together."
Shi Piao described several problems faced by women officials during the process of poverty-alleviation. First, they often work overtime, with no holiday, which is bad for women's mental and physical health.
For those women with children, too-long work hours limits the time they have to accompany family members, affecting their harmony.
Second, some female officials still hold obsolete knowledge structures, although they have abundant work experience and ability. They lack the ability to accept new things such as information offices, policy interpretation and other operations.
Furthermore, the problems also include unsound incentive mechanisms, welfare treatment and limited scope for promotion.
For the problems above, Shi Piao also recommended that women's federations better care for women officials by setting up mutual-help teams to alleviate their stresses.
For those who lack time to spend with family members, relevant departments should scientifically arrange their days off.
Meanwhile, relevant departments should strength women officials' abilities in construction at the grassroots level, by launching training courses on the use of new media, and collecting relevant cases for new officials' training.
In addition, welfare treatments should improve with promotion channels, which can ensure that women officials have enough space to grow.
(Source: cnwomen.com.cn/Translated and edited by Women of China)