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From 'iron shoes' to co-partners

Swati Mishra, who studied in Peking varsity for 2 years, talks about change in the status of women in China.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2007 11:30 IST

In the second half of the last century, rise of China from an opium eater to a modern nation has been spectacular, but even more spectacular has been the change in the status of Chinese women in Chinese society. 

Prior to communist triumph the Chinese girls were forced to put on iron shoes in order to have small feet. Small feet since ancient days were considered to be the measurement of feminine grace and beauty. The red china took no time to do away with this inhuman practice and today these feet are running in the stadium, winning gold medals in sports and glorifying the status of China in the world arena.

Today Chinese women are dominating the Chinese society. The patriarchal system was in vogue till the last century but today's China is no longer under patriarchal system as a result Chinese women today are playing significant but subordinate role, of course baring political and educational field.

There was exception when in late 70s, Mao's wife Jiang Qing ruled to dominate even the political stage, though only for a few years.

Today though they are dominating the society in most of the cases the post of a senior manager goes to male candidates. Except Wuyi all the powerful leaders in Chinese communist party are men. One is surprised to see male members in Chinese families doing household chores. Cleaning the house, washing dishes and cooking food for the family is no longer included in women's daily routine.

In Beijing most of the people eat outside; there are plenty of restaurants with variety of foods on both sides of the pavements. I was told that though 99 percent people (both men and women) work, there is no concept of housewives and so they prefer to dine outside. Then I realised why China is developing so fast. If women are so active who can stop a nation to change.

Once China was known as sick man of Asia and today it's well on the path of joining wealthiest and healthiest nations of the world.

Chinese women are full of confidence they are driving buses and taxis, they are working as bus conductors, sales women in automobile shops, waitresses in restaurants service women in hotels, workers in factories, and so on.

On my second day in Peking University when I went to a Xerox shop to get my testimonials photocopied. I was startled to see the shop full of women workers. It was so rare in Delhi. I found that in Beijing 70 per cent to 80 per cent women are computer literate.

According to data available a good number of men folk in China are underemployed and underpaid. Though ladies are paid less than men, even then they are able to meet expenses on household including school fees of their children. School and college fee in China is believed to be higher than in other developing countries. It is said that they are able to do it as the concept of saving is almost absent in present day China, perhaps reason for this is the sense of security which the system and the government has created in Chinese mind.

Today, Chinese seem less worried about their future as had seen the case in the past.

What's more the system has provided the Chinese womenfolk freedom, specially the social freedom that the Chinese society has, by and large, accepted without any reservations. This acceptance, it appears has gone a long way to enhance the position of Chinese women in present day China.

Swati Mishra a student of Chinese history and has spent two years studying Chinese language and history at Peking University. She can be reached at swati889@gmail.com .

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