|Jilin Qiaojie Piao Renzi weaves an handicraft. [Women of China/An Yi]
Women's federations in northeast China's Jilin Province have helped local women boost their incomes by encouraging them to make and sell straw woven products such as shoes, handbags and other handicrafts. The products have sold well both at home and abroad and the cottage industry has helped a great number of rural women pull themselves out of poverty.
Setting an Example
One such woman is Li Xiulan, who lives in a remote village in Yushu City. In 2008, Li saw a TV advertisement for straw weaving training and signed herself up for the classes.
After the training, Li returned to her hometown and made a batch of woven shoes and handbags with corn leaves and straws to sell. She was thrilled when her products were quickly snapped up, earning more than 1,000 yuan (US$164).
Yushu has over 240,000 hectares of corn fields, providing ample raw material for the straw weaving industry. Li was inspired by her initial success to develop the industry into a new income-generating opportunity for the villagers.
With the help of the local women's federation and government departments, Li and Nongguang School jointly started straw weaving classes and have so far trained over 500 female villagers. Now, all the women in the village are engaged in the industry.
In 2010, Li established a straw weaving association which currently has over 500 members from surrounding villages and towns. The association not only gives instructions on weaving techniques and design of the products but has already set up some marketing channels covering many large cities like Beijing, Tianjin, Harbin, Changchun and even some foreign countries. The products have become a new economic growth point and generate over 8 million yuan (US$1.312 million) every year. In 2010, some of Li’s woven products were collected by the China Agricultural Museum.
In order to further boost the industry, women's federations in Jilin have set up local women's handicrafts association and the Jilin Women’s Federation has registered a unified trademark for these associations --- 'Jilin Qiaojie', literally meaning 'Jilin Skilled Sisters'.
All these associations have adopted a unified brand, symbol and assessment system, laying a solid foundation for the market-oriented management and industrialized operation of straw woven products.
In the past, independent weavers worked separately and lacked sales and marketing channels. But the handicrafts associations have partnered with local big enterprises to set up 'Jilin Qiaojie' handicraft bases, forming an integrated marketing model that includes unified training, processing, recycling and selling.
The Jilin Women's Federation has taken advantage of these bases to conduct training courses, including beginners' courses, advanced courses and design courses. To date, more than 67,000 rural women have received training and are making straw products to sell from home.
The Jilin Women's Federation has also raised more than 5 million yuan (US$820,500) to help the women expand their businesses, and displayed straw-woven handicrafts at large-scale exhibitions to promote the industry.
The federation has collected over 1,000 straw-woven handicrafts and held two exhibitions in 2010 and 2012. A total of 126 works were awarded and 'Jilin Qiaojie' signed cooperation agreements with over 20 enterprises.
The Jilin government and the Jilin Women's Federation have worked together to set up a 3000-square-meter entrepreneurial base in 2012, creating a better platform for the development of 'Jilin Qiaojie'.
The Jilin Women's Federation has also offered an all-round service for women's micro- and small enterprises, including policies and legal consulting, management and finance training and market promotion, stimulating employment by greatly lowering the cost and risks of starting businesses.
At present, 28 enterprises have joined the entrepreneurial base and are producing 100 kinds of products with an estimated annual production value of 70 million yuan (US$11.5). The base has also created about 10,000 job positions for women.
"The base has united nearly 10,000 women straw weavers," said Yu Hong, president of a district-level women's federation in Jilin's capital city of Changchun. "We plan to use e-commerce to further expand the market for straw-woven products and encourage more outstanding enterprises to join the base."
A total of 99 'Jilin Qiaojie' training bases and 30 handicraft associations have been established across the province, promoting the employment of over 60,000 women. In 2002, 4 million yuan (US$656,400) was invested to provide free materials and skills training to laid-off women, needy women, rural women and single mothers to help them start their own straw weaving businesses.
(Provided by Jilin Women's Federation)