photo of Chinese woman northeast and southwest China
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(CHINA 25 - Southwest)






Village women’s director


Fale village, Weining county, Guizhou


22 April 1997


This is not one of the best interviews. The interviewer has tried hard to elicit information but the narrator seems reluctant to participate, and her answers are generally short. The interviewer comments on her own disappointment: she had hoped to learn a lot about women’s roles and status, because of Zhonglan’s position as the local women’s officer, but it turns out that the narrator has done little in this job and she offers no special insights or information. She says this is partly because, since the introduction of the “household responsibility system”, people work on their own, and so there has been no call for community activities, discussions etc: “interaction between farmers became less. Women seldom contacted each other. No activities were organised.” However, the narrator also admits that she feels “old” now and has no particular desire to learn more or to initiate training schemes for others.

Some passages are a little confusing - possibly because of the translation – but there is, more in the later half, some useful information. The interview focuses primarily on the importance of livestock, and on aspects of development (especially the need for water). She is adamant that the new system is much better than the collective communes: “The [household] responsibility system is good. You labour as [much or as little as] you like, and you get richer if you work harder.” Nevertheless, the overall impression left by the interview is of deep poverty, and of how this has worn people down.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-3  General details - how many children, at school etc. School details - took an exam to become a women’s leader but couldn’t get promoted because didn’t fulfil the criteria of having worked for 3-5 years. Mentions parents regret that one of her brothers did not finish school. “There is no development in these places. Really, except for raising livestock, there isn't anything else here. We all depend on livestock for our livelihood.”
Section 4  Livestock owned by family “In our community, if you are rich, you keep large livestock
Section 5-6  Medical facilities for women are very poor; health problems are widespread. Fairly scathing about local “doctors’” knowledge and ability; unlike some other narrators, sees little value in anything but western medicine: “How could the herbal medicines which can be found in this place heal anything? Those medicines that have been processed are good; processed western medicine is good.”
Section 7  Division of labour: “Women bear more. Men only help with the work when it's the busy season for planting. At other times, all the work is done by women. Men go out [of the village] other places to work.” If people do have some money, they may leave the village to try their hand at market trading but few from her village – men or women – have this option: “They have no money in their hands, what can they take to go? They all stay at home.” Women’s work: “Oh, they are not just hardworking; they work themselves to death.”
Section 8-9  Says since the introduction of the household responsibility system, crop yields are better: “What's the reason? We work by ourselves and don't have to share with others. What you do is yours. Everyone earns more. In the past, a group of people worked on the same piece of land. You dug on the piece of land and I would not labour more than you did. People didn't want to work hard. Like, when we grew the potatoes, we just threw them there and didn't care if they grew well. Now you grow potatoes, and you will get the yield.” Lack enough grain. General farming details - nothing substantial
Section 10  The re-allocation of land has helped too: “The piece of land in front of my house belonged to 4 to 5 families in the past. One family occupied only a small plot of land.”
Section 11  Need water. There was a water pipe but it was stolen, so now just depend on the rain for irrigation.
Section 13-14  Brief mention of environmental problems encountered now the trees have been chopped down on the mountainside. Planting trees to compensate. Said trees were chopped down in the past because of poverty; if people didn’t sell the wood, they would starve. Road built last year: government provided the money; the villagers the labour. “Transport? In the past, we were longing for it. Last year, this small road was built, we were very happy about it…. When the bus comes, groups and groups of people surround it and look at it.” “…in the past if you wanted to build a house, trucks cannot come in and we didn't have tractors. We had to go outside to buy the cement and tiles, and then use horses to carry them back.”
Section 15-16  Having sons or daughters - thinks it’s good to have a girl. “I think girls are good. For a girl, wherever she goes, she will make a living if she has favourable conditions (eg some money, education, training opportunities).” Number of children villagers have (four is enough - cannot afford more) Attempt to obtain some information on customs. Marrying outside the ethnic group – it happens with Han.
Section 17  Feels peoples’ options are very limited: “What can they do? Many people cannot read. They couldn't find a way to earn money if they go out[side the village]. What can they do if they go out? The only way is to stay at home…”
Section 18-19  Differences between now and the past: living conditions, clothing etc has improved.
Section 20  Despite the rather fatalistic and at times hopeless tone of the interview, she ends on a positive note: “[What is the] happiest thing? Now, the higher authorities care about us rural people. They take care of the people when their lives are difficult. When we have no money, they allocate the funds to us. We are very happy about this. Children can go to school; the road has been built. In the future, if my child is admitted to the middle school, with the road that is there, I could take the bus and get there in one day.”