VI. Women and the Environment
China attaches great importance to creating a social and cultural environment conducive to boosting gender equality; through building a healthy and safe natural environment and fostering equal and harmonious family traditions, sound conditions have been created for women' s development. Women are playing an increasingly prominent unique role in the fostering of social culture, protection of the ecological environment and family management.
Creating a social environment in which women are respected and gender equality is upheld. The Party and government departments, women's federations and other social organizations at various levels promote the basic national policy of gender equality through various means, such as publicity campaigns, training courses and seminars. Leading Party and government officials at various levels have taken the lead in writing and publishing articles and making speeches to promote gender equality. China has developed cultural and media policies aimed to boost harmonious development between men and women and prohibit gender discrimination. The state has enhanced guidance and management of the media and has trained media workers to enhance their awareness of gender equality. China has improved supervision to ensure news media and advertising agents exercise strict self-discipline and avoid any discrimination against women in the media by depreciating or denying their independent personality. China has vigorously publicized the positive contribution made by women to economic and social development. Women are playing an important role in the media. By the end of 2014, female journalists and editors had made up 44.1 percent of qualified staff in this area.
Women's cultural life is being enriched. Public cultural services target women with the intention of satisfying their cultural demands. Museums, galleries, libraries and cultural centers nationwide are open to the public for free, and digital libraries are being developed, thus increasing women's access to culture. Major efforts have been made to boost the development of information technology, providing women with new platforms for cultural communication and innovation. By December 2014, Chinese women netizens numbered 283 million, accounting for 43.6 percent of the total netizens. Women have ever-increasing leisure opportunities. Fitness campaigns have been directed at hundreds of millions of women, and such activities are still gaining momentum. According to a recent survey of Chinese women' s social status, 55.2 percent of women are taking an active part in physical exercises.
The everyday environment for women is being markedly improved. The Program for the Development of Chinese Women (2011-2020) set goals for improving water supply services and toilets that have a positive impact on women' s daily and working life. Access to sanitary toilets in rural areas increased from 40.3 percent in 2000 to 74.1 percent in 2013. Improved water supply in rural areas has benefitted a total of 900 million people, with accumulative benefit rate of 95.6 percent. Access to tap water in rural areas increased from 55.2 percent in 2000 to 76.4 percent in 2013. All these changes have helped improve the living environment of women and reduced their daily burden. China sets store by highlighting the role of women in building a conservation culture. More and more women are involved in environmental protection, making their contribution to protecting the ecological environment, addressing climate change and maintaining energy and resource security. The number of female members in the NPC Environment Protection and Resources Conservation Committee, female mayors in charge of environmental protection and female heads of environmental protection bureaus has kept increasing. By the end of 2014, female officials working at the Ministry of Environmental Protection accounted for 31.2 percent of the total. Women are encouraged to participate in energy conservation and emission reduction efforts, and to adopt low-carbon lifestyle. Women take part in environmental protection with enthusiasm, and environmental protection organizations with women playing a dominant role are on the rise.
Building a harmonious and equal family environment. The 12th five-year plan for population development takes gender equality, family harmony and freedom and equality in marriage as its major goals. Some local regulations contain explicit provisions on maternity leave for female employees and nursing leave and subsidies for male employees, to support husbands and wives in balancing work and family and jointly sharing family responsibilities. China has conducted social studies of the relationship between women, marriage and family to improve the social support system for women. It has initiated "Care for Girls Action" to challenge the tradition of favoring boys. China has set up and improved systems of services for the elderly to ensure that elderly women' s living conditions and quality of life are improved, and that impoverished, widowed and elderly women living alone are given special care. China actively launches campaigns to find "Model Family" and "The Most Harmonious Family" to foster the best family traditions. Over the past 20 years, a marked improvement has been seen in gender equality in marriages and families. The recent survey of Chinese women's social status shows that it has become the norm for husbands and wives to make family decisions jointly, and that more than 70 percent of women have taken part in making major family decisions. More and more women can share family resources on an equal basis with men, and the concept of men and women sharing housework is now accepted, with the housework time gap between men and women shortened from 150 minutes 10 years ago to 74 minutes now.