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Rural Women Left behind at Home Need Attention

Rural left-behind women work in a factory in Yihe Town near home. More and more rural women could work in town instead of going to big cities.

Technicians are training over 50 rural women who could work in a factory near home after the Spring Festival in Shijian County, Hubei Province.

Zhang Jin teaches women to sew accessories on clothes. Zhang helped rural left-behind women earn income in process business in southern China.

Yan Yuqin, 50, looks after her grandson, who is not yet 1 year old, in East Nanwen county, Hebei Province.

Also living under her roof are two daughters-in-law, another one-month-old grandson. Her husband and two sons, who are rarely home.

There are hundreds of families with left-behind women in East Nanwen county, accounting for 20 percent of the 493 families.

According to estimates, about 126 million rural workers are working in cities, and among them 70 percent are men, of whom 81.7 percent are married. Left-behind rural women is becoming a large social group.

The burden

With their husbands working in cities to earn more money, many left-behind wives in rural areas are taking on the burdens of being at home by themselves.

Forty-four year-old Zhu Jianchun lives in the countryside of South China's Jiangsu Province while her husband works in the city. She has to care for her parents, four children as well as do farm work.

"In the countryside, women do most of the farm work. In the past, men came back to help with the harvest, but now that production is mechanized, they do not come back", says the president of the Women's Federation of Shangshui town, Henan Province.
"As more and more men leave for work and business, rural women are playing a greater role in rural economic and social development. They do farm work, care for the parents and their children", says Cui Yu, Director-General of the Development Department of the All-China Women's Federation. Many left-behind women express a willingness to take on the burden because their husbands can earn more in cities.
The Bitterness

Most left-behind wives have to bear loneliness while their husbands are away from home. They are seldom able to visit their husbands in the cities because of the high cost of travel and expenses. As a result, phone calls are their main form of communication.

Song Shufang, 35, a resident of East Nanwen county, whose husband has been away for more than 3 years, says that they only have contact when there is something urgent. Asked whether she missed her husband, Song smiled, "I only hope he can take care of himself", and then she wept.

Li Ruixue, the president of the Women's Federation in Wei town, says that the left-behind women live a very hard life. They miss their husbands, but to have a better life they are willing to make sacrifices.

Calls for Assistance

The absence of their husbands has impacted left-behind women's families and marriages. They often feel insecure.

The long separation and rare reunions between couples is damaging to marriages, as evidenced by the increase in divorce rate.

Meanwhile, without the protection of male family members, homes and women become the targets of criminals, especially in remote areas. Sexual attack is a growing problem. According to a survey, about 70 percent of the victims in rural sexual attacks are left-behind women. But many women, afraid to lose face and be subjected to public scrutiny, refuse to go to the police for help.

Help When Possible

Associate Researcher of China Academy of Social Sciences Mi Xiaoxiong said the urban-rural disparity is the root of the phenomenon of rural left-behind women. Society should care for them and the government at all levels should help them resolve their problems.

Cui Yu, Director-General of the Development Department of the All-China Women's Federation said the government should enhance support and skills training for left-behind women so that they can improve themselves.

At the same time, left-behind women are becoming more independent. Many counties in Lianji town have set up Women's Associations and night schools for adults, providing classes that target these women, and enriching their lives.

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