Women of the world unite | Forum magazine
“Women can hold up half the sky,” said Mao Zedong, China’s revolutionary leader. The sentence summarizes the Maoist vision of feminism, which aims to establish equality between men and women and places the focus of women’s liberation on the entry of Chinese women into the labor market and effective contribution to the construction of Chinese socialism.
On the eve of its 73rd birthday, the People’s Republic of China has gradually integrated the cause of women into national development. Women have been present on the labor market since the communist victory in the National Liberation War, which we know as the Revolution of 1949.
There are even examples of high-profile positions, such as the vice chairman of the board and chief financial officer of China’s largest private company, tech giant Huawei, Meng Wabzhou, who is the daughter of founder Ren Zhengfei. Or taikonauts Liu Yang and Wang Yaping.
There is only one woman at the top of the political power space: Vice President Sun Chunlan. Already in advisory positions in the political environment, the presence of women attracts attention, such as the director general of the Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, Hua Chunying, who also serves as the spokeswoman for the country’s foreign ministry. There is still a strong female role in the academic environment.
The women’s struggle in China faces the same challenge that we Brazilian women face: the patriarchal structure and social division of labor, which puts reproductive responsibility, care for children and the house on our shoulders, wombs and hands.
As in Western countries, China has developed public policies to guarantee women’s rights. Through the country’s main political event, the National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPCCh), which will hold its 20th edition on October 16, for example, Chinese women have made achievements.
In November 2012, during the 18th CPC, adherence to the basic state policy of equality between men and women and protection of the legitimate rights and interests of women and children was defined for the first time. Since then, the legal rights and interests of women have been fully guaranteed.
In 2015, the Act on Suppression of Domestic Violence was implemented, which established a protective network for victims of domestic violence. In 2016, the draft of the thirteenth five-year national plan for economic and social development was promulgated, advocating the elimination of discrimination and prejudice against women and the legal protection of women’s legitimate rights and interests, such as employment and annual leave.
In 2019, the Chinese government issued a notice on additional regulation of employment and promotion of women’s employment and began requiring that women not be prevented from seeking employment or denied employment based on their gender.
The cause of maternal and child health has progressed. In 2018, there were 3,080 maternal and child health institutions, 807 maternity hospitals and about 640,000 maternal and child health workers across the country. From 2009 to 2018, a total of 85 million women were screened for free for cervical cancer, and 20 million were screened for free for breast cancer. Maternity leave for women increased from 56 days in 1951 to 90 days in 1988 to 98 days in 2012.
Most women have increased their incomes and risen out of poverty. The China Women’s Federation further promoted the “Women’s Poverty Alleviation Action”, and during the “13th Five-Year Plan” period, five million poor women were helped to increase their incomes and get out of poverty.
Women make up more than 60% of China’s rural workforce. A large number of family farms and agricultural cooperatives founded by women have sprung up in the areas of specialized planting and cultivation, agricultural processing, leisure farming and e-commerce.
In early 2020, the health emergency imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic showed the strength and solidarity of Chinese women. Of the 40,000 medical teams from across China that came to Hubei province to help during the crisis, a third were women.
There is no doubt that there is progress, but challenges remain, especially in terms of motherhood and equality in the labor market and in taking leadership positions. After 35 years of the one-child policy, which was abolished in 2013 due to an aging population and gender imbalance, the Chinese government allowed two children per family, and in 2021 up to three children.
The fact is that until now the reproductive task is exclusively female, men still cannot get pregnant. In the 21st century, we women want to be what we want, not what they expect us to be. We want to be presidents, CEOs, astronauts, scientists, mothers, housewives and whatever else we want.
So there is a concrete problem both in China and around the world: no public policy will be able to limit us to reproductive work. In addition to equal pay, health rights, security guarantees, what we want is to get rid of the patriarchal structure. This is the new age of women, free and sober. After all, we hold half the sky.