China probably contains more mountain and highland territory than any other country in the world. This site featured interviews from two contrasting mountainous areas.
We worked with several partners in China: the Women’s Studies Centre (WSC) in northeast China collected testimonies from Han women; Oxfam Hong Kong (OHK) and the Yunnan Minority Gender and Development Group gathered testimonies from women of five different minority groups in southwest China.
Themes covered in both collections include economics, family life, health and gender. The collections were published in China in two complementary books entitled Daughters of the Mountains.
Extracts from the testimonies
“When I gave birth to my son, my husband was still working in the city. He didn’t come back. Now there is a clinic women can go to for a birth. But that will cost a few dozen yuan. People feel reluctant to spend that money. And there is no special food for the woman. If the family has chicken, then maybe she can have some eggs, otherwise she won’t spend money to buy eggs…Thinking about this makes me cry. Life is too hard for us women living in the mountains. Until the last moment before giving birth women are still labouring in the fields.”
Suping, female, farmer
“[I] contracted a mountain slope for 40 years. My husband was [working] away from home then. Some villagers laughed at me, “Without her husband, a woman wants to transform the mountain, she must be out of her mind!” I tried to persuade my husband to help me, “You’d better come back to give me a hand in cultivating the mountain,” I said. “What I am doing is beneficial in the long term. You see, those workers in the city have their pension. Where will you get yours? From the hills of course.” At last he was persuaded not to leave home, but to plant trees with me….Last year all the 100 plum tree we planted blossomed. It looked like white clouds on the hills. Not until then did the villagers begin to realise that we are doing promising work.”
Fengying, female, 40 years, village head
“Our place is not like other places. The water and soil in other places are warm, and grain can be harvested twice a year; in our place, the water and soil are cold, we can only harvest once a year.”
Erguai, female, 72 years, Wa minority, farmer
“There isn’t a processing factory, otherwise they would want to do some food processing or some related thing…Villagers could get great benefits from it. It’s good to do the pig fodder processing, or a grain mill, then you can ask for whatever price you like… [Some] wish to have a factory manufacturing…Lahu clothes and bags.”
Na Ah, female, 22 years, Lahu minority, Oxfam extension worker
“In our place, when we were young, trees were everywhere. They were so many that you couldn’t get through them… I went [home] twice this year. I felt such sorrow when I saw the mountains. It was as though they had been cut by a sickle, not one tall tree left…People are rich but the resources are used up.”
Pan Xuefeng, female, 40 years, Miao minority, doctor