|Craftswomen weave traditional brocade in Xiushan Tujia Autonomous County, Chongqing, on Jan 23, 2024. [Xinhua]
CHANGSHA — In a bustling brocade factory in central China's Hunan Province, a harmonious blend of sounds fills the air. One side resonates with the rhythmic click-clack of the loom, while the other echoes with children's laughter.
Nestled in the city of Zhangjiajie, Guaiyaomei Tujia, an innovative ethnic brocade factory, has pioneered flexible working arrangements for rural women. This initiative empowers them to balance their professional commitments with childcare responsibilities.
Mothers often confront a tough decision in rural areas — whether to stay home to care for their children or work elsewhere to contribute to the family financially.
The factory in Zhangjiajie is endearingly called the "mother-friendly factory" and presents a groundbreaking solution to the dilemma.
Gong Qin, a worker at the factory, occasionally glances at her 4-year-old daughter with a smile. It brings her comfort to see her daughter joyfully playing with friends nearby while she focuses on her tasks. "My little girl is considerate and never disturbs me during work," Gong said with pride, adding that her daughter is familiar with the loom's components.
Gong began working at the factory eight years ago. Faced with the challenge of her husband working away from home, she proposed bringing her children to work.
To her delight, the factory welcomed her proposal. Since then, Gong's son has accompanied her to the workshop after school, where he and other children engage in playful learning and do their homework, creating a seamless transition from work to home life.
Gong appreciates the factory's flexible management, which allows for adaptable child pick-up and drop-off times. "There's a dedicated area in the factory for our children's learning and entertainment, staffed with caregivers. It enables me to focus on my work," she said.
Zhang Tiantian, manager of the production base, said that the factory employs over 120 women, with 80 percent being mothers with young children. Around 50 mothers work alongside their youngsters year-round.
The Tujia traditional handmade brocade, a renowned craft in Zhangjiajie and one of China's five major brocades, boasts a rich heritage. In 2006, it earned a place on China's inaugural national list of intangible cultural heritage.
Despite being initially unfamiliar with the Tujia brocade, Gong has become a master artisan and an esteemed inheritor of the Tujia brocade after years of hard work. "Working with the Tujia brocade enriches my life, allowing me to be present in my children's growth and find self-worth in preserving and passing on our heritage," Gong said.
To further support children's development, the mother-friendly factory has established a parent-child canteen with nutritious meals, renovated 16 apartments for mothers and children, and organized volunteer-led after-school care. "In addition to promoting and improving the protection and inheritance of intangible cultural heritage, women can provide the best company for their children by getting employed and increasing their income," said Hu Xiaoxi, head of the Women's Federation of Wulingyuan district, where the factory is located.
"The mother-friendly factory increases the number of jobs available to women and provides them with more platforms to showcase their skills," Hu added.
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