'Mom Handworks' Building Better Tomorrow for Impoverished Women

Author:Zhao Guangfeng November 23, 2019
Models present the clothes made by craftswomen who are beneficiaries of the "Mom Handworks" Project. [For Women of China/Zhang Yuwei]


Many traditional Chinese crafts have been handed down from generation to generation, especially among women. Read on if you want to learn how China Women Development Foundation (CWDF) has implemented the "Mom Handworks" Project, to promote China's intangible cultural heritage worldwide, and how the members of the project's team have helped impoverished women in different regions of the country attain wealth by creating crafts.

In response to the Chinese Government's call for Chinese to promote implementation of China's poverty-alleviation policies among rural residents, CWDF initiated, under the guidance of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), the "Mom Handworks" Project in 2016. The project is also intended to promote China's intangible cultural heritage worldwide. To achieve the goals, the foundation employs impoverished women, in different regions of the country, to create crafts. The foundation also helps the women market their products.

During the past three years, 13 of China's provinces, municipalities or autonomous regions have implemented the "Mom Handworks" Project. Through the project, CWDF has established a combined 48 cooperatives (across the country), each of which produces and sells various crafts, including embroideries, paper-cuts, batik works and tie- dyed items. The cooperatives have been able to employ more than 3,000 rural women, including left- behind women (whose husbands have left home to work elsewhere). As they work near their homes, the women can take care of their elders and children.

Craftswomen create crafts according to the artists' designs. [For Women of China/Zhang Yuwei]


Creating Crafts with 'Vigorous Vitality'

The project's team employs artists to help craftswomen create crafts with "vigorous vitality," by integrating modern artistic elements in the designs of the items.

In 2016, when the team asked Zhang Zhaoda, an oil painter and a fashion designer from Zhongshan (a city in South China's Guangdong Province), to design patterns of tie-dyed items, he agreed immediately.

Soon after, Zhang and the team's members visited many craftswomen and art museums in Zhoucheng, a village in Daili Bai Autonomous Prefecture, in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. Zhoucheng, the largest Bai-inhabited village in China, is commonly referred to as the "hometown of tie-dyed items" and "living fossils of Bai people's folk customs." Based on the traditional patterns collected by Zhang and the members, Zhang designed more than 20 fashionable patterns (of tie-dyed scarves), integrated with traditional and modern Chinese cultural elements.

Yang Chunyan, a native of the prefecture, is a beneficiary of the project. "My father was a worker with a tie-dyed crafts manufacturing plant before he retired. Influenced by him, I developed an interest in the craft during my early childhood. When I was a little girl, I began learning how to create tie-dyed items under my father," says Yang.

She noticed the tie-dye craft began to wane as machine-made souvenirs became increasingly popular among visitors (to the prefecture from all over the world). "In 2016, my husband and I took our newborn baby home. We decided to do something to revive the craft," recalls Yang. Luckily, the team's members employed her as the head of Dali's tie-dyed crafts cooperative. The members also provided training to the cooperative's members, to help them improve their craft-making skills. Given the sound development of the cooperative's business, jobs have been created for many rural women (in the prefecture). That has helped many families solve their financial difficulties.

In accordance with the members' requirement, Yang recorded how the cooperative's members use traditional methods to make tie- dyed items, in an effort to inherit the traditional cultural heritage and to promote development of the traditional craft.

Craftswomen discuss how to create crafts in a better way. [For Women of China/Zhang Yuwei]


Promoting Crafts Globally

The members in recent years have organized various online and offline activities to promote the sales of various handmade items created by impoverished women in different regions of the country. For example, the team employed Yaksa Band, a well-known Chinese heavy-metal band, to provide the background music when the members shot a music video for the craftswomen (in Dali) who created tie- dyed items. The team during the past several years has also held online bazaars to sell various crafts created by impoverished women (from different parts of the country). Given the team's efforts to promote the women's items, the women have received many positive comments about their products from customers.

The members during the past few years have taken every opportunity to promote the women's crafts globally. Many crafts have been shown on the NASDAQ screen (in Times Square, in New York). The items have also been shown during the international forums (on public welfare projects), in which the members participated in France, the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries.

The members in recent years have also made every effort to promote the traditional Chinese crafts. The members felt regret when they learned a skilled craftsman (of the tie-dye craft) had passed away in 2017, leaving many artworks (with complicated patterns) unfinished. The members have realized there's no time to lose to visit master craftspeople, to collect their exquisite artworks and record their traditional methods to make crafts. The members have been calling for greater efforts to be made to promote China's intangible cultural heritage.

Craftswomen create crafts according to the pattern designed by an artist. [For Women of China/Zhang Yuwei]


(Women of China English Monthly October 2019 issue)


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