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Speech at the Expert Group Meeting on Regional Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action

Cai Sheng, All-China Women's Federation

As the new millenium approaches, we believe that it is of great necessity to initiate the comprehensive review and appraisal of the implementation of the BPFA. Here, I would like to give a brief introduction on implementation of the BPFA by China.

The Chinese government attaches high importance to the follow up the Jakarta Platform for Action and the BPFA adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women. Within the framework of PFA, China has formulated the Program for the Development of Chinese Women (hereinafter referred to as the Program) and combined the implementation of the PFA with the realisation of the targets set in the Program.

According to China's national conditions, the Program set out 11 objectives scheduled from 1995 to 2000 with respect to women's political participation, employment, health care, education and violence against women and etc. In the light of the general objectives set out in the Program, 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government had formulated programs for the development of women in their localities. As all these programs were made accroding to the local conditions, they are more specific and applicable.

In February 1990, the National Working Committee on Women and Children under the State Council was established, as the national machinery for the advancement of women in China. Now the Committee is consisting of 23 government departments and 5 NGOs charged with the responsibility of coordinating the work of government departments to protect the rights and interests of women and children and of providing practical and beneficial services for them. The Committee also coordniates inter-agency implementation of and monitoring the Program. Since 1995, the Committee has convened many ministerial meetings and national conferences to sum up experiences, analyse the work done and discuss priorities, difficulties and measures in implementation. Taking monitor and evaluation as its major task, the Committee has compiled Guidelines on the Monitoring and Evaluation of the Program, set up monitoring mechanism at national and local levels. Fifty-four training courses of various levels on the Guidelines have been conducted in provinces, prefectures and counties throughout the country. From the end of 1998 to early 1999, four consecutive working meetings on monitoring and evaluation by region have been organised.

The main findings in the monitoring and evaluation are: the major objectives of the Program and local programs are all well implemented, most of the objectives have nearly reached those set for the year 2000, and women's situation on survival, protection and development have been gradually improving. At the same time, we are aware of the following facts: China is a developing country with a huge population, out of which there are over 600 million women, more than 1/5 of the world's total. Not entirely free from the remnants of the old feudal thinking and still bound by the local social, economic and cultural development, quite a number of women in rural areas are living in poverty. There is still a big gap in the education level between women in the urban areas and those in the rural areas. About 100 million women are still illiterate. In the transition from planned economy to market economy and in the process of economic restructuring, large numbers of women workers are laid off and finding it difficult to find a new job. Despite the tremendous amount of work we have done in women's full participation in development, we have been still facing the great challenges to achieve the overall objectives of the Program. The major challenges are the following:

Regarding poverty alleviation, the population living in poverty in the country has been brought down from 65 million in 1995 to 42 million in 1998, and the number of poverty-stricken women has been reduced accordingly. Now women account for around 60% of the total people in poverty, living mainly in mountainous, dry and remote areas with extremely harsh natural conditions and a slow economic and cultural development. It is very difficult to alleviate poverty among these people. To fully change the situation within 2 to 3 years. To get the people out of poverty, the government has made great endeavors by formulating preferentia policies; intensifying the construction of infrastructure and scientific and technological input; introducing measures such as cooperation between the well-off and fast-developing eastern regions and the poor and backward western regions; and conducting micro credit schemes among the poor people, especially among women. But in view of the present situation, it seems that it will be an ardous task to meet the targets.

In education, the number and percentage of women received education have been increased yearly. The difference between the rates of boys' and girls' enrolment rate in primary school was reduced from 2.91% in 1990 to 0.21% in 1997. From 1990 to 1997, illiteracy was wiped out among 37.73 million people of 15 - 45 years of age. Although the number of women illiterates has been brought down, it remains a challenge to accomplish, due to the big base number of women illiterate. Most illiterates are now concetrated in poverty-stricken rural areas, and the majority of them are women and older people, scattered all over different places and some of them have been in migration. The literacy program in China is greatly a time and resource consuming activity. To eliminate illiteracy by the end of 2000 has thus become more difficult. The government has taken the main following measures:

  1. To conduct publicity and advocacy campaigns extensively, and mobilize women to get involved in the literacy program.
  2. To combine the literacy program with skills training.
  3. To mobilise social forces to participate in the literacy program ans cultural and educational activities.

In employment, on one hand, employment opportunities have been provided by the government to a large number of new labor force; more than 7 million people have gotten employed each year in the past few years, among them 40% are female. On the other hand, the past two years have witnessed a serious laying-off of female workers. The government has been working hard to solve the problem of re-employment of laid-off workers, with an aim to guarantee the basic living standards of all of them, and to provide them free vocational training and employment guidance and counselling.

In order to help laid-off female workers get re-employed, some special policies have been formulated by the government:

  1. To vigorously develop tertiary industry, create job posts and employment opportunities for women. Special efforts have been made to develop community services to employ laid-off female workers. In 1997 alone, 3.7 million unemployed and laid-off female workers got employed again.
  2. To organise laid-off female workers in free training according to the demands of labor markets, and to provide employment information and guidance. In the year of 1997, 2.08 million laid off and unemployed women were trained, and their re-employment rate after training was 70%.
  3. To make special preferential policies. To date, 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government have made preferential policies for the re-employment of laid-off female workers. For instance, in Hebei Province, it is provided that any enterprise that recruits one female worker and signs a labor contract with her for over one year will get 1000 RMB yuan in subsidy from the local labor bureau.
  4. To give publicity, through mass media, to the outstanding women workers in successfully getting re-employment. To promote an attitude change in job selection by transforming from the old mentality of getting hold of the big iron "rice bowl" and that of waiting, relying on and demanding from others to find jobs of their own.

As I elaborated that China is still facing a great challenge to reach the goal of PFA, however, we have the determination and the confidence to reach this lofty goal through continuous efforts and we welcome the support and cooperation of the international community in this connection.

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