|Zhou Yanwen promotes the products via livestreaming.|
Do you believe plain-looking straw can be woven into fine works of art? Zhou Yanwen, President of Yushu (a city in Northeast China's Jilin Province) Women's Straw-weaving Craft Cooperative, during the past few years has put a lot of effort into both promoting the time-honored, straw-weaving craft and helping local rural women attain wealth by creating straw-woven products.
Although she had left home to work elsewhere, Zhou thought she had her "roots" in Linjia, her home village (in Yushu). So, she returned home in 2015, to establish her family's farm.
Soon after she attended a straw-weaving course, provided by Changchun (capital of Northeast China's Jilin Province) Women's Federation in 2016, Zhou came up with the bright idea that she could organize women villagers to use rice straw, which could be found everywhere in the village, to create straw-woven products. The women would not only increase their families' incomes, by selling the items, but they would also do something to improve their village's environment.
With the support of women's federations, at all levels in Yushu, Zhou in August 2016 began providing, free of charge, straw-weaving training to women from different towns and townships (in Yushu). With Zhou's help, many impoverished women have boosted their confidence in their ability to realize their dreams of getting rich through hard work. As the women have improved their craft-making skills, many of them have lived better lives.
|Zhou Yanwen arranges straw-woven products|
In November 2016, Zhou's farm and 11 of Yushu's craft cooperatives established Yushu Women's Straw-weaving Craft Cooperative. Zhou was named president of the cooperative.
Zhou has invested a lot of time and energy in developing her business over the past few years. Now, Yushu Women's Straw-weaving Craft Cooperative, with 17 branches and 18 production bases, employs more than 3,200 rural women. During the past five years, the women have earned, combined, more than 150 million yuan (US $23 million) by making various straw-woven products.
In 2017, Zhou and several craftswomen set up Changchun Women's Straw-weaving Society. The society collects the woven products made by rural women, who live in Linjia and its neighboring areas, and processes the products before selling them. "Our company has provided job opportunities to rural women (including middle-aged and elderly women). As the women work near their homes, they can take care of their parents and children," says Zhou.
During the past few years, Zhou has led the society's members in participating in various cultural activities held in various regions of the country. For example, in 2017 and 2018 she led the members in a competition to select skilled straw weavers. The event was held by Changchun Women's Federation, in Changchun. Several members performed splendidly during the competition.
To help women study the skills needed to create straw-woven products, Zhou arranges live online courses provided by the cooperative's members. She also leads the members in promoting the products' sales online. "We'll make greater efforts to promote the traditional craft, and to help more rural women live better lives," says Zhou.
Photos Supplied by Zhou Yanwen and Yan Linyun
(Women of China English Monthly April 2021 issue)
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