The Women of Guanyun County
An aging population, China's one-child population, and the lack of social welfare within the country have been particularly hard on the people of Guanyun County. Boys are highly desired for their strength in farm work, and female children must fulfill the double duty of working on the farm and eventually rearing a child to care for aging relatives. As cost of living goes up, men and boys of working age leave the county to find higher-paying work in the cities, increasing the burden on the women left behind. Charities from nearby Nanjing have taken up the cause of the county, providing money for basic home improvements and the cost of schooling, easing the difficulties of daily life. Without their contributions, many of the children would grow up without education and the women left to farm would be unable to afford the cost of basic necessities.
These difficulties are perhaps strongest felt by Guanyun County's orphans. The horrors of China's orphanages are well-known, and the residents of Guanyun do their best to keep orphaned children out of the state-run institutions. Many women, once widowed, are forced to remarry and abandon their children due to the lack of jobs in the area and social custom. These young children, whose parents have died or disappeared, remain in school and their hometowns through the kindness of neighbors and distant relatives. The opportunity for success is small, but it's a grasp toward hope in an otherwise meager existence.
But where there is despair, there is also hope. Through both local and province-wide social programs, the area is beginning to show signs of a new future. Education reaches more children than ever before and local women's groups have provided scholarships for young girls. Industry in the area is beginning to develop, and with that, hopefully, family incomes will rise to meet the cost of living. Progress will not be swift, but optimism within the communities is growing.
I have separately submitted an amendment to the terms and conditions of submission as provided to me in email by Catherine M. King, Vice President, Exhibitions and Programs, International Museum of Women
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