Home for Women Workers

ByLi Wenjie August 23, 2021
Xu Meijia (1st, L) has a meeting for the workers. [Xinhua/Yang Zhisen]


"When the women first worked at our workshop, what they often said to me was, 'I can't do it.' But now, they are more confident than ever. They accept clients, give interviews and sell products via livestream," says Xu Meijia, founder of a poverty-alleviation, e-commerce workshop in Minning.

Xu was born and grew up in Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia. "My grandfather left his hometown, in East China's Zhejiang Province, in 1958 and came to Qingtongxia, a city in Ningxia, to help build Qingtongxia Reservoir," she says.

Xu was once a village cadre in Guyuan, where she conducted work related to migrants' relocation. She also started an e-commerce business in Southwest China's Qinghai Province.   

Her decision to return to Minning to start a business stemmed from a local-investment-promotion cadre's words — and especially from her love for Ningxia.

"The cadre said to me that if you open a poverty-alleviation workshop, you can give women a chance to work near their homes, so that they balance their work and life," Xu says.

Xu in 2019 moved her e-commerce business base to Yinchuan. That year, she also established the workshop in Minning.

However, she encountered unexpected difficulties at the beginning. The workers were poorly educated women villagers. They had a difficult time adapting to the modernized factory-management system, such as punching in and getting to work on time.

Xu understood she had to teach them everything, including the rules for working in the workshop, how to use computers and how to do livestreams.

Xu always encouraged the women. At that time, what she said most to them was, "It doesn't matter, let's learn from the beginning together," and "The harder you work, the better you will be as an example for your children, and your children will be more confident."

Xu also did everything she could to create more opportunities for the women to have contact with the outside world, and to broaden their horizons. When reporters would visit the workshop to conduct interviews, Xu would encourage her workers to face the camera. She also took employees with her on business trips.

During the past three years, the women workers have remolded themselves. "One of the women, who used to work at a noodle restaurant, now manages seven online stores, handling thousands of orders every day. Another worker, Ma Yan, has become an online celebrity. She often says impressive words when giving interviews. For example, when she was asked about the changes before and after relocation, she replied, 'Before relocation, it was like a dark house; after relocation, the light in the house was turned on'."

Adds Xu: "The women workers have gained an income and confidence, and they have improved their family status. I am happy to hear the workers say 'our workshop' and 'our products' when they talk to reporters and customers. They regard the workshop as their second home."

With support from Fujian Province, Xu has established two stores in Fujian, and she has recruited agents in various cities across the province. The annual sales volume in Fujian is about 4 million yuan (US $615,384), accounting for 20 percent of the workshop's total sales volume. "Fujian's support for Ningxia is really heartwarming," Xu says.

This year, despite the epidemic, the workshop's business is more prosperous than before. Xu plans to build a product-distribution center, in Minning, to sell Fujian's seafood and agricultural products in Ningxia. "We are grateful to Fujian and its people. We hope our workshop will become a win-win platform that sells agricultural products from both Fujian and Ningxia," she says.


(Women of China English Monthly June 2021 issue)


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