Menu Close

China Incentives to Women for Family Planning 15 April 1998.

THE EARTH TIMES/CHINA

APRIL 1 – 15, 1998

A ‘Program for Happiness’

SMALL LOANS TO THOUSANDS OF MOTHERS WHO ‘LIVE IN ABSOLUTE POVERTY’

BY ASHALI VARMA

With the goal of helping the poorest women living in China, the “Program of Happiness” was founded in founded in 1995 by the China Population Welfare Foundation, China Family Planning Association and the periodical China Population.

“These women live in absolute poverty,” Miao Xia, Secretary General of China Population Welfare Foundation, told The Earth Times.  “They have barely enough food and no source of income, let alone access to education and medical care.  There are about six to eight million  impoverished mothers in china.”

Miao said she believes a better job of family planning depends on the social and economic status of mothers as well as education.  “If the mother is educated, the future generation will be better,” she said.  The poorest mothers, according to Miao, have a strong desire to have more children—despite the negative impact on their health and economic stability.

The Program of Happiness which is run by the China Population Welfare Foundation seeks to eradicate poverty: by giving small loans to mothers to start income-generating schemes; to eliminate illiteracy by financially supporting village-level schools; to teach mothers to read and write; to provide medical treatment and maternity care.

In the past two years, its officials say, the program has spent more than $2.5 million in setting up 50 program offices in 23 provinces and has helped 30,000 women.  “Our goal is to reach 100,000  women by the year 2000,” Miao  said.

“We have raised a lot of funds ourselves, from individuals, corporations and others,” Miao  said. “Madam Wang Guang, who is the wife of Chairman Liu and was once our first lady, is a  director of the program. She sold $63,000 worth of her own antiques and gave the money to the  program.” This attracted a lot of attention, according to Miao, inspiring others to come forward with donations.

The program lends $125 to $375 to a mother to start a small business, usually in fruit and vegetable growing, food processing, animal husbandry or handicrafts.

When they start making money the mothers repay the loan, and the money is then lent to other poor women. Among those who have benefited from the program is Chen Xuying, a poor village woman who lives with her husband and child in Xinguang Village in the Shandong province of China.

Before she received her loan, Chen was in debt for more than $250 and lived in an iron-sheet shed which was bitterly cold in the winter and hot in the summer.  She and her husband made a meager living out of farming a patch of waterlogged land and cutting hair.

With a loan of $375 she leased a fish pond and a bigger patch of arable land and moved into a small house built by the government. At the end of 1996 her income from selling vegetables and fish was $1,275 and she repaid the loan on time.  By the end of 1997 her income surpassed $1,875.

She has told the program that she plans to breed high-grade fish such as crabs and snakehead fish. She also wants to invest in pigs and hire other impoverished mothers to help in her pig farming operation.