|San Gua Society's slogan: Highlighting original charms of rural areas|
The women's federation of Chaohu Economic Development Zone, in Hefei, capital of East China's Anhui Province, has taken measures, in recent years, to advance women's entrepreneurship and innovation, and to help women explore ways to shake off poverty. Those measures have included organizing professional skills-training sessions, building a women's entrepreneurship street and providing women with supportive policies. Given support from the women's federation, women who have started businesses in San Gua Gong She (or San Gua Society), a renowned business and tourist spot in Chaohu Economic Development Zone, are "nourishing a flower of prosperity."
|San Gua Society is home to Women's Entrepreneurship Street.|
The women's federation for Chaohu Economic Development Zone was established on March 7, 2016. Under the guidance of the women's federation, San Gua Society also established a women's federation.
With the purpose of "highlighting original charms of rural areas," San Gua Society combines the construction of a beautiful countryside with the development of agriculture, business, culture and tourism. San Gua Society also has a popular street — Women's Entrepreneurship Street.
A dozen shops are situated along the street. The women's federation of San Gua Society provides supportive policies to encourage women to start businesses. For example, women do not need to pay rent and water and electricity fees during the early days after they open a shop. The majority of startup owners on the street are left-behind women, who stay in their hometown to look after their families. There are also female college graduates and women from other places. For women who have already grasped techniques and have developed their products, the women's federation of San Gua Society provides beneficial policies to help them boost their businesses. For owners who have not grasped techniques, the women's federation helps them open a shop and supplies them with products, which have been manufactured in San Gua Society, at low prices. Nowadays, women are playing a key role in the rural construction of their hometown.
Four years ago, Zhou Weiqun was living an ordinary life, like most of the women in her hometown. "I used to follow my husband while we both worked away from home. I did not have much time to accompany the old and young in our family. Young people from our village moved away to earn a better living in urban areas. Elderly people stayed in the village. They grew vegetables and rice to feed themselves," Zhou recalls.
|Visitors to San Gua Society|
In 2016, she heard on the news that San Gua Society was recruiting business partners, who were encouraged to open shops in this business and tourist spot. Zhou is good at cooking mahua (a famous Chinese snack, fried dough twist). At that time, she thought it might be a good idea to return to her hometown and open a mahua shop. However, she did not know how to properly rebuild and decorate a house into a shop. She did not know how to manage a shop either. Luckily, the women's federation of San Gua Society lent a helping hand.
Members of the women's federation gave Zhou advice on how to develop her products, and they helped her build a shop and encouraged her to attend training, to learn rural e-commerce skills. Today, Zhou owns Happy Mahua Shop. The annual sales volume of her shop exceeds five million yuan (US $714,286).
Shen Lei also runs a business in San Gua Society. Shen was born in Chaohu in 1992. She relocated (with her parents) to Suzhou, in East China's Jiangsu Province, when she was two years old. Shen missed her hometown, Chaohu, while she was growing up.
|Fried dough twists sold by Zhou Weiqun in Happy Mahua Shop|
"San Gua Society was established in 2015. I visited this compound in 2016. It took me some time to make up my mind to move back to my hometown. Starting a business would be totally different from working for someone else's company. You have to think about many things if you are a boss," Shen says.
Shen started her business in 2017, when she was 25. The federation's supportive polices convinced Shen to stay in San Gua Society. After one year of hard work, Shen had a team, with whom she sold products online. "We sell agricultural products and snacks produced in San Gua Society. The supply of goods comes from here. My team helps villagers in my hometown sell their agricultural products," Shen says.
To date, 19 shops have opened on Women's Entrepreneurship Street in San Gua Society. The shops' owners combine the manufacturing/processing of agricultural products with the development of e-commerce and tourism.
What are the roles women can play in rural revitalization and poverty alleviation? How can women, especially young women, be attracted and encouraged to run businesses in their hometowns? To answer such questions, the women's federation of Chaohu Economic Development Zone has organized various activities, to arouse women's love for the countryside and to help women explore innovative methods to develop their businesses.
The women's federation holds lectures and training sessions for rural women, so they can learn information related to leisure agriculture, e-commerce and rural tourism. Moreover, local women participate in colorful activities, including reading salons, art performances and flower arrangements, to learn new skills and broaden their horizons.
|A reading salon, highlighting "the strength of mothers"|
|Women managers of agricultural cooperatives pose for a photo after a training session.|
Photos supplied by Hefei Women's Federation
(Women of China English Monthly July 2020 issue)
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