Wu Hongqin, deputy to the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), lauded social progress in China after changing the section on "protecting the basic rights and interests of women, juveniles and the disabled" into a separate chapter in the latest draft of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). The chapter includes three sub-headings including "promoting women's all-around development" and "caring for juveniles' healthy growth."
A Reflection of Coordinated Economic and Social Development
"The draft of the 13th Five-Year Plan is a comprehensive program concerning China's economic and social development, so it is of unique strategic meaning," Wu said.
The draft involves economic growth and many aspects of general well being, embodying the comprehensive target of having a harmonious development of both the economy and society.
In the plan, there are directives encouraging the development of inclusive kindergartens, ramping up preschool education in rural areas, implementing a three year action plan prior to schooling, raising the gross kindergarten enrollment rate to 83 percent; improving the quality of grass-roots public health services, increasing resources for women's and children's health, public hygiene, tumor prevention and control of mental diseases and pediatrics; comprehensively promoting maternal and child hygiene service and increasing the screening and diagnosis rates of common diseases for women; establishing and improving care systems for left-behind children, women and senior citizens; forbidding employment discrimination in all its manifestations; and adopting positive policies to help the full implementation of the new second-child policy.
Feng Shuping, deputy to the 12th NPC who has been closely following the issue of kindergarten development, was glad to see related provisions in the draft. According to her, the implementation of the second-child policy will impose more pressure on women in the workforce. Preschool education counts a lot because one's character is usually formed from 0-3.
Deputy Che Xiaorui also attaches enormous importance to potential problems women and children will confront after the introduction of the two-child policy. "Older women have to tackle more pressure from work and life when giving birth to a second child… The government should create favorable conditions for these older women, providing more care for their mental and physical health."
A Separate Chapter Dedicated to the Progress of Women and Children
The chapter committed to ensuring fundamental rights and interests of women, juveniles and the disabled in the draft of the 13th Five-Year Plan explicitly outlines a State policy of gender equality and the children first principle, to reinforce rights and interests protection of these social groups and give them fair opportunities.
The sub-section dedicated to promoting women's all-around development stipulates the program for the development of women should be earnestly implemented. Women should have equal rights and opportunities in education, employment, marital property and social affairs. Rural women's land rights, interests, and agency should be protected. Work concerning poverty relief, labor protection, health care, social welfare and legal aid for women should be further strengthened. There must be a crackdown against abductions and human trafficking. Discrimination and prejudices against women must be eliminated.
The sub-section focusing on the healthy development of juveniles underlines the implementation of the program for the development of children by promoting legal protection and social responsibility to ensure their rights to subsistence, development and participation. The minor custody system should be improved, a social network providing care for minors should be constructed, and a community-based protection and service system should be established. There should be no more child laborers. In addition, the government shall create a favorable growth environment for them, promoting coordination and interaction among schools, family and social education, cultivating good quality and motivating their vigor and creativity. Teens should be further encouraged to participate in volunteer work.
According to Che, the special chapter conforms to China's economic and social conditions as well as popular sentiment.
Enhancing the Entity Responsibility of Government at All Levels
"The draft of the 13th Five-Year Plan is comprehensive since its targets include the coordination between the rights of women and children and the demands of social and economic development," said Wu.
"It should be noted that government entities at all levels should assume entity responsibility in implementing the program for the development of women and children," she said. She highlighted that the program for the development of women and children is a goal formulated by the government, not the All-China Women's Federation. Coordinated development and sharing the fruits of common development are inherent in this goal.
Che told that some rural areas lack sufficient care for women and there are many inequalities across villages. Women living in poverty are closely related with children and families in poverty, so more assistance in legal, economic, educational and medical care is needed. This job should be included in the agenda of local government.
In the massive task of poverty alleviation, women are not only the subject of poverty but also an indispensable force in helping eliminate poverty. In the process of implementing the program for the development of children, it is critical to ensure children in urban and rural areas can enjoy achievements of reform and opening up on an equal footing to share social public services.
(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Women of China)
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