Legal Information to Rural Markets
The Qianxi Women's Legal Centre, funded by the County Women's Federation, was established in 1995 with eight full-time women lawyers. The Centre provides free legal information for all women, and free legal support for those who are poor. Of 400 cases from 1995 to 1998, one third concerned violence against women.
To raise rural women's awareness of their individual rights as citizens, staff at the Centre looked for ways to take their services to places where rural people go to regularly. They decided to open a "legal desk" (actually a stall) at the main local markets, a public place where people meet once a week to buy and sell goods. At the stall, staff distribute printed materials on the Law Protecting the Rights and Interests of Women, and answer queries from rural women regarding the legal implications of divorce, property rights or domestic violence.
Since early 1998, the Centre has organized a series of activities on violence against women and legal training workshops, which are held in the markets every second week. These activities have become extremely popular among rural women, as they can buy and sell goods and learn about their legal rights in areas such as marriage and property at the same time.
#2 Addressing Stereotypes
in the Media
Chinese media, including newspapers, television commercials, television series and popular magazines, is full of stereotyped portrayals of women. To change this situation, a Media Watch Network was established in 1996 to promote more balanced images of women, and eliminate sexual discrimination in the media. The volunteer members are women journalists from mainstream newspapers, news agencies, magazines, journals and television and radio stations.
In 1998, research by the Network on eight mainstream newspapers indicated that men were the focus of 83% of prime news stories, while women only comprised 17%. In the sample of over 18,500 news items, only 0.5% were about women's issues or movements. The stories tended to emphasise the importance of women's virginity, to portray women as weak and passive members of society, and to suggest that the primary role of women was to be mothers and wives. Cases of violence against women were mostly treated as social stories that over-emphasised the masculinity of the abuser, and lacked a gender perspective.
Based on these findings, the Network implemented a series of interventions. Firstly it conducted gender sensitivity training for all members to sharpen their consciousness of the issues. Secondly, members shared information and resources on violence against women, especially on legal aid, hotline and counselling services that could be passed on to their audience. They also increased gender-sensitive coverage of violence against women in the media in order to raise general awareness of the issue.
#3 Solving Financial
Constraints in a Non-Government Organization
The Maple Women's Psychological Counselling Centre, Beijing, is a non-government, non-profit voluntary women's organization. It was founded in 1988 by a group of female intellectuals who provided some seed funding. While it was hoped that the Centre could raise operational funds by selling products for women and children, this strategy failed. Eventually the Centre solved its financial difficulties by identifying a fee-paying service to raise revenue for its other activities.
The opportunity came after the 1989 elections in China. The number of elected women officials had dropped quite considerably, which caused a lot of concern. The Centre identified a need to enhance the skills and qualifications of women leaders participating in politics, and collaborated with the Women of China magazine to offer a training seminar for women officials nationwide. The seminar introduced very different viewpoints and perspectives than the traditional training seminars for officials, and included courses such as "Special Difficulties and Problems for Female Officials", and "Psychological Barriers to the Success of Female Officials". The courses were designed to meet the needs of the women cadres, and were warmly received by the participants.
Over the following years the Centre organized similar seminars, as well as conducting training courses for officials working in front posts in rural areas, and education on women's legal rights and interests. A moderate tuition fee was charged, which covered the daily operations of the Centre. The training also provided opportunities to conduct surveys and discussions with women officials to further understand the particular problems facing women cadres, and the reality of women's participation in politics. This led to a book entitled "Action of Chinese Women's Participation in Politics" which enabled institutions in other cities and provinces to carry out similar training programs.
In spite of the success of this approach, the Centre believes that the orientation of a social welfare institution should not be to earn revenues through this sort of activities. Recently, it has been successful in raising most of its funds through donations from foreign and domestic funding organizations, social institutions and individuals.
#4 Providing Telephone
Hotline Services to Women
The first Women's Hotline in China was established in Beijing in 1992. As the first Women's Hotline in China, an important part of its work has been training counsellors for hotlines across the country.
In 1996, advanced hotline counselling training was provided to 27 counsellors from nine provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. In 1998, the Centre worked with the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy to provide a Sino-British Hotline Supervision Seminar to train administrators and supervisors of 38 hotlines from 13 provinces and municipalities.
In the five years 1993 to 1997, the Hotline assisted just under 35,000 callers. The main issues raised by the women were sex (22%), marriage (21%), women and children's health (20%), love (15%), legal matters (8%), psychological problems (8%), family upbringing (2%), work-related problems (2%), domestic violence (1%), and sexual harassment (1%).
#5 Integrating Research,
Teaching and legal Services
The Centre of Women's Law Studies and Legal Services was founded by the Law Department of Peking University in 1995 to provide legal services, and to study and promote women's rights in the Chinese legal system. The Centre seeks to promote women's consciousness of their legal rights, to increase legal protection for women's rights, and to improve the treatment of women by the legal system.
The Centre has become an
integrated institution of research, teaching and legal services. In
addition to providing free legal counseling, the Centre researches and
publishes analyses of legal problems facing China's women. It is staffed
by law department faculty staff, graduate students and full- and part-time
lawyers, and receives help from some of China's most noted pioneers in the
fields of women's issues and women's law.
#6 Promoting Awareness
through University Student Activities
Since 1992, the Student Union at Peking University has held a two-week Women Students Cultural Festival each year. More than 5000 students and staff members of 50 faculties take part in activities such as lectures, public forums, movies, and theatres regarding issues of concern to women students.
In 1998, the organizers
decided to incorporate a public forum on the topic "Women's Bodies as
basic Human Rights". More than 150 male and female students and four
female professors exchanged views and argued points. The forum began at
6:30 in the evening, and only ended five hours later when the lights had
to be turned off.
#7 Training Adolescent
Boys and Girls
In 1993, the Jinglun Family Centre of the China Association of Social Workers began offering classes for adolescent boys and girls to address the lack of education on gender roles and sexual relationships in formal middle schooling. The training is designed as workshops and covers gender awareness, gender equality and gender relations. The trainers have specialist qualifications in psychology and sociology. In total, one hundred thousand middle school students have participated in the training.
In 1997, the Centre
recognised the need to re-focus its violence against women efforts towards
prevention. It began to incorporate material on violence against women in
the classes through story telling, drawings and group discussion. The
content was expanded to include basic human rights, implying that any form
of violence against girls and women is a violation of human rights, and
appropriate sexual behaviour including equality and mutual respect between
#8 Educating Police,
Prosecutors, Judges and Counsellors
While domestic violence
accounts for only 1% of phone calls to the Women's Hotline in Xian City,
the counsellors regard it as a serious problem. In 1996, they decided to
conduct a survey of female criminals in the provincial women's jail, and
discovered that some of the prisoners had killed their husband or
boyfriend because they were victims of domestic violence. Even when
police, prosecutors and judges had been aware of the violence, they had
not intervened because they regarded domestic violence as a family matter.