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(CHINA 11 - Southwest)








Cuihua village, Luquan county, Yunnan


24 April 1997


This is rather a sad interview, rather more full of personal detail than of views on development issues - but it reveals much about difficulties for women, especially those who are childless. It is clear that members of their family and community “look down” on them for being barren. Her marriage is an unhappy one, in part because of their infertility, but she also appears to be considerably more intelligent and capable than her husband whose frequent descents into drinking may be due to feelings of humiliation. However, it becomes clear that alcoholism and the wife beating which often accompanies it is a widespread problem in the community.

The interview is prefaced with a note from the interviewer in which she explains that because she did not return the narrator right to her door the evening of their interview, her husband accused her of having been elsewhere. A terrible quarrel ensued, which went on all night, and the interviewer expresses deep regret that her own “ignorance” caused such problems for the narrator.

Poor health and the high cost of treatment is again a theme. She suffers severe period pain, which may be linked to infertility, and recently lost four fingers in a farming accident, but she has had no hospital treatment in either case. Her husband’s reluctance to support her desire for reproductive health treatment makes it almost impossible. Despite her tough life, she is a forceful character and the interviewer seems impressed with her resourcefulness. She, like her husband, is uneducated but she has taught herself to count and manage money. Indeed, if they were to divorce (as he constantly threatens) she feels she would be able to earn a living, but doubts that he could! There’s some information about local religious practices, farming and family relations.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-3  Interviewer describes narrator’s husband’s hostility and the trouble that giving the interview caused. Married her cousin (mother’s brother’s son). Last year, he beat her severely, but “I fought with him and I won … he did not dare to beat me again.” After her four fingers were severed in an accident, he started beating her again (“He said I had no strength to fight him back now”). Didn’t want to marry him, because he lived so far from her home village (12-hour walk).
Section 3-4  Women use medicinal herbs for abdominal pain. They find them themselves, or buy from “a few old men who pick and sell them”. People found herbs for her to take for infertility, but in vain. Doesn’t know if problem lies with her or her husband - they haven’t consulted a doctor.
Section 4-5  Suffers severe period pain, during which she can’t walk. Wanted to see a doctor when they had extra money, but was persuaded not to. Thinks treatment would cost 500-600 yuan. She heard that the women’s officer in the village office was advising a check-up, but that her own response was: “My family only have money to smoke and drink. There is no money for medical treatment.” Married at 18. Husband has been drinking and “so hateful” for 7-8 years. He won’t even allow her to visit friends. His drinking causes frequent fights.
Section 6-7  People, including family, “look down” on them because they have no children, and fights with her husband are often about this. Every day, her mother or her husband tell her she’s “not as good as others” because she has no child. “Myself? I think it’s better to have a child, so that the people in the village won’t bully us, and the family won’t have fights.” Heard on the radio about a doctor in Beijing who helped infertile couples, but husband said it would be too expensive to go there. She said it would be worth it, even if it cost 4,000 or 5,000 yuan. Her eldest brother gave them his newborn daughter to raise (his third child and therefore over the official “quota”). The fights with her husband abated. But the child recently died (diarrhoea), aged 3. She took the child to hospital, but she died on the fourth day.
Section 7-8  Husband tells her daily he wants a divorce. “The older he is, the more hateful he is.” Won’t let her go out because he’s “afraid that I would go and get involved with another man.”
Section 8-9  Beats her, and beat his parents when they tried to protect her. On her request her parents-in-law had come to live with them two years before; this served to spread the workload, especially as she and her husband had no children to help. But husband also turned against his parents when he was drunk, and told them to leave. His parents haven’t spoken to him since. On drinking: “I’m not against it [but] it would be nice if there was no quarrel and fights after drinking.”
Section 9-11  At one point the couple “divorced” (“at home” – and no need for formal procedure since they’d married under age and had no certificate). “We had quarrelled and he asked me to go back to my parent’s house.” She felt: “It was up to him. Anyway I could make a living if I divorced.” But, as she predicted, he was unable to manage practically without her and kept harassing her brothers to get her to come back. She stayed away six months, then they “remarried”. Quarrelled again last night, so she went to the house of his sister (who’d often “blamed” him when he beat her). Complains of his stupidity and incompetence – he can’t plant tobacco, or harvest the right plants, or count money. “He only knows about smoking today and drinking tomorrow.”
Section 11-12  She went to school up to grade 3. Can’t read, but taught herself to manage money. Hides it from husband “[or] he would take it to buy cigarettes”. But when she was sick, he did cook. She used to go to church but husband complained that it was too far away. She was the only one from her village to go there, “so I couldn’t find a companion to go with me”. She is a Seventh Day Adventist (Anxihui). Doesn’t go to local Neidihui (China Island Mission) church as they don’t have the same rules about not eating pork. Became interested in religion after marriage.
Section 13-14  People who have religion are kinder.” Miao, Han and Yi all practise Anxihui religion.
Section 15  Husband bought tape-recorder instead of buying rice; later smashed it when drunk. He wanted to buy a TV. She said they “should not buy any more things” and needed “to build the house”. Husband felt: no child, so why bother?
Section 15-16  Three months ago, she lost four fingers on right hand, severed by farm machine. Can still weave, plant tobacco. [Oxfam?] health worker bound her hand, but she didn’t seek hospital treatment, worried about the expense. Much pain, bleeding. Parents wanted her to go to hospital, but she said, “my hand would not cause me to die”.
Section 16-19  Greatest sadness for her is that husband doesn’t help her, just drinks - something that in the past he scolded others for. When he doesn’t drink, is kind. Prefers the new breed of corn - more robust, better yield. But still plants 50% old breed, as it ripens later. All need the chemical fertiliser. Some villagers don’t keep livestock anymore, so lack natural fertiliser.