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Small-business fund allows Chinese women to explore new careers

(China Daily)

11:22, September 15, 2011

BEIJING, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Zhang Liping's six-year-old boy is just learning to walk. Most children his age are already running, jumping and playing with their peers, but the cerebral palsy Zhang's son was diagnosed with five years ago prevents him from doing so.

Fortunately, a new small-business fund jointly launched by the All-China Women's Federation and Mary Kay China has allowed Zhang to start her own business and pay for treatment for her son, giving him a new lease on life.

"Without this project, I didn't know how I would be able to make enough money to pay for his treatment," said Zhang.

When Zhang's son Yin Bangli was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the couple were earning a combined total of 1,200 yuan (188 U.S. dollars) per month. The expensive medical bills incurred through their son's treatment took a serious toll on the family's finances.

Zhang heard about the project in March 2009 and applied for a 40,000-yuan interest-free loan to set up her own advertising company in her hometown of Deyang, a city in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Zhang's company has expanded rapidly over the last two years. She now earns more than 4,000 yuan per month. She has paid off her original loan and spent an additional 40,000 yuan on Yin's medical care.

The small-business fund has helped over 36,000 impoverished women in 20 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions since being established ten years ago.

"The program helps to improve the social status and life quality of poor women across the country," said Qin Guoying, secretary-general of the China Women's Development Foundation.

Rebeca Grynspan, under-secretary-general of the United Nations and the associate administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), echoed Qin's remark.

"Empowering women economically not only improves livelihoods, but gives them the confidence, status and skills to participate more effectively in the management of family and community affairs," she said.

"If China's development ambitions are to be fully realized, it is crucial to further empower women to seize opportunities," Grynspan said.

However, a researcher from the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has found problems with the program after conducting research in south China's Sichuan and Shanxi provinces.

"The fund is limited in such a way that each county can only get 100,000 to 200,000 yuan," said researcher Du Xiaoshan. "In addition, the program needs to cooperate with more professional organizations to conduct personnel training in rural areas," Du said.

Paul Mak, president of Mary Kay (China) Cosmetics Co., Ltd., said on Wednesday that his company will donate an additional 6.4 million yuan to the program, bringing the company's total contributions to 19.7 million yuan.

"By increasing our donations, the program will help more and more women to explore new careers and new lives," Mak said.

Grynspan said that the UNDP will start contributing to the project in order to "develop an even more effective organization that integrates the principles of culture-based development and community leadership."

"It is my hope that, over time, our new partnership will provide opportunities for many of China's bright young women to develop their own pathways to prosperity," she said.


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