Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fighting family violence for gender equality

/ Page 5

 Fighting family violence for gender equality
By Chen Jia
Updated: 2007-07-16 07:01

A young woman drops in at a government social relief shelter with her
child, begging not for money, but for food. The experienced staff,
trained in handling domestic violence cases, see the fear in her eyes and
are quick to detect the inconsistencies in her statements. Thanks to
their patience and persistent but sympathetic questioning, out comes a
sad tale.

That happened a year ago in a town in East China's Shandong Province.
Today, the woman, surnamed Dong, works as a translator in Xuzhou in East
China's Jiangsu Province. She is proficient both in Russian and Korean.
And most importantly, she is free - from her husband's regular beatings
and the constant fear she used to live in. Her main concern now is to
give her child the good life that it deserves.

How did this miracle come about? After listening to her tale of torture,
the employees of the Shandong social relief shelter, part of a pilot
national network for domestic violence victims, contacted their
colleagues in Xuzhou. They made all the necessary arrangements for Dong's
rehabilitation there, giving her a chance to start life anew.

The two shelters in the neighboring provinces are blazing a new trail in
protecting the rights of women and children. According to Xuzhou
Anti-Domestic Violence Shelter program chief Ma Li, their "pioneering"
work is part of an ongoing national program. What's more, the Ministry of
Civil Affairs (MCA) is considering introducing the domestic violence
intervention scheme in 1,200 social relief shelters across the country.

A woman throws punches at a rubber boxing dummy, with the words "family
violence" marked on its chest, at a catharsis club in Chongqing. The
facility serves exclusively for women battling depression and family
violence.     Tang Ming

Government social relief shelters usually offer those seeking help -most
of them beggars - a few free meals, a few nights' free lodging and a free
train ticket back home. But victims of severe domestic violence - most of
whom are women and children - need not have to return home. And since
they are likely to continue living in fear in shelters in their home
towns, they are shifted to other places.

In the past 15 months, the Xuzhou shelter has received 196 woman victims,
and the employees have helped four of them find jobs and start a new life
in another city. Apart from providing lodging and medical care, the
shelter also offers psychological counseling and legal help to the

Sometimes providing a free ticket back home is like depriving them of the
chance to learn to deal with domestic violence, Ma said on Friday on the
sidelines of a forum supported by the United Nations Development Fund for

This is just the first step in a noble mission, he said. "So many women
are in need of help." A survey sponsored by All China Women's Federation
revealed violence was part of about 35 percent of the 270 million
families in China, with most of the victims being women. The nature and
severity of the violence varies, though.

Also, surveys conducted in different places in the past two years have
shown that at least 20 percent of divorce cases stem from family violence.

Xuzhou's pilot program is funded jointly by the MCA and China Gender
Facility, set up in 2004 to meet the UN's millennium development goals
(MDGs) and reduce gender inequality in the country. Initiated by the UN
Theme Group on Gender (UNTGG), the China Gender Facility comprises UN,
multilateral and bilateral development agencies and international NGOs.

Since its launch, the program has provided funding for 16 pilot programs,
such as the one in Xuzhou. It has reviewed the condition of women
suffering from HIV/AIDS, migrant workers and senior citizens.

The innovative and catalytic projects aim to enhance awareness and
knowledge of the people and advocate policy change. "The size of the task
ahead of us is daunting," Constance Thomas, director/representative of
International Labor Organization and the UNTGG chair, said at Friday's
forum. According to UN Development Program, China is 81st on the list of
177 countries in the global Gender Development Index.

Participants at the forum were told that despite the past couple of
decades of high economic growth and significant progress in poverty
alleviation, gender disparity is still a problem in China. In fact, it's
a major "stumbling block" toward achieving the Millennium Development

"But we gain courage and confidence from the valuable experiences and
good practices already achieved and the partnerships the UN has built
through the China Gender Facility," Thomas said.

Hopefully, the work being done by shelters like the ones in Shandong and
Jiangsu will be emulated across the country and build the momentum toward
achieving gender equality in China.

(China Daily 07/16/2007 page5)

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