|Zhou Yanwen holds a bag made of straw. [Women Voice]|
A businesswoman from Yushu, northeast China's Jilin Province, has turned straw weaving into a prosperous industry in her hometown thanks to her own initiative and help from women's federations at different levels.
Zhou Yanwen has enabled numerous people to learn about and fall in love with straw weaving, a folk art with nearly 100 years of history of peculiar to the region.
Straw weaving involves making works of art out the corn leaves after the autumn harvests.
Zhou chose to be a straw weaver to inherit and protect traditional art. She also appreciates that through the craft she has found a way to lead others to shake off poverty.
Zhou, now in her 30s, previously had to work outside her hometown to finance her younger brother's study. She return to her hometown in 2015 and established a family farm.
After attending a training course on straw weaving organized by the Changchun Women's Federation in 2016, she was glad to find that the raw materials of straw weaving were simple, cheap and eco-friendly.
"Straw can be found everywhere in my hometown. Instead of burning them or using them as fertilizer, I thought that we should try to make money from them. If the idea materializes, I can help other countrywomen earn money and do my bit for environmental protection," Zhou recalls.
From then on, Zhou devoted herself to her straw weaving business. She paid great attention to the prospect in the market and the ordering of the product. After finishing her study, she offered classes to other female farmers for free.
With the support of women's federations at different levels, Zhou started to organize training sessions on straw weaving for free in different parts of Yushu in 2016, thus gradually building a stable team of artisans.
The training publicized an environment-friendly lifestyle and brought economic returns to farmers.
Zhou established Yushu Women's Straw Weaving Cooperative Association together with 11 other cooperatives in November 2016, which provided her peers with a better platform for study and innovation.
The association has offered training to over 5,000 females so far. In 2017, local women earned an additional income of over 13 million yuan in total.
To mobilize her peers, Zhou founded Changchun Women's Straw Weaving Association along with pioneers of straw weaving from other places. Under her leadership, the members in this organization have played an active role in various activities. For example, they achieved a good result in a straw weaving contest organized by Changchun Women's Federation.
Straw weaving industry also provides a good opportunity for over three million housewives, mainly middle age and older women, in Jilin.
"I will continue protecting traditional handiwork together with my partners and strive to make more money so that children in our hometown will no longer be forced to drop out of school for financial reasons," said Zhou.
(Source: Women Voice / Translated and edited by Women of China)
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