China’s Shaanxi Patriotic Volunteers Association has recently acquired the Special consultative status of Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. An investigation team dispatched by this association payed a visit to northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for more than 20 days, passing through Tumshuk, Kashgar, Aksu, Alar and other places. According to the team’s interviews and investigations, we can see that the vocational training center has made Xinjiang women live better and more independent thinking.
“Sister Milky Tea”: the business is turning better day by day
On the first night of the team’s arrival in Tumushuk, the team searched for local food at the night market. More than 70 stalls on one side of a street were bustling with people and fragrance at 11pm, local “big plate chicken”, roast mutton kebabs and other special barbecues made people salivate.
Yule Tuzi, known as “Sister Milky Tea”, is a the keeper of a Milky Tea Stall. “Yule Tuzi” means “a girl as beautiful as a star” in Uyghur language, and she is beautiful just like her name. Perhaps because Yule Tuzi is so eye-catching, her milk tea shop has a good business, and Yule Tuzi’s income is also rising even there are some other milk tea shops in this night market street, which also indicates the people in this place are as fashion as those in other Chinese big cities.
Yule Tuzi said to the team members “Thanks to the learning experience in the vocational training center, i can use Pinyin” as she was busy receiving payment skillfully using WeChat and Alipay’s QR code.
Yule Tuzi is a single mother with two daughters, the elder daughter, 12 years old, is attending a local junior high school. The younger daughter is 8 years old. She and her two daughters lives with her parents.
On the question of “Who will take care of your two daughters during your study in the vocational training center” Yule Tuzi answered, during that period, her daughters still stayed at home to attend school and kindergarten, with the care of her parents and brother. At weekends, the center also provides bus service for the trainees to and from their homes.
“None of us women trainees went to study with husbands. Only one person of a couple went to the center at a time. As far as I know, the government even stood out to play a coordinating role and lend a helping hand whenever any of us had a family trouble. The government helped us a lot in life and is very nice to us. I’m even thinking of going back for further learning.” She said, “After our graduation, the center still keeps informed of our development. There is an arrangement of regular visits to us to ask about our difficulties in life. If any of us meets difficulty in finding a job, the teachers of the center will try to coordinate and solve for us. It was after graduation that I started this milky tea shop, and the business is turning better day by day. The cows raised by my father can produce milk about 30kg each day, and the center actively helps us contact and find marketing channels. At nights we often go to the square to entertain ourselves with the uyghur dance ‘Maxirap’.”
On children and family issue, she gave a straightforward and unreserved answer that birth decision is made by themselves, only the parents would care about it. she and her husband had long been divorced. No reason other than “incompatibility of temperament”.
Criteria for a husband: Nationality and age are not important
Jehhan is another typical graduate from the vocational training center, Her parents both have 6-7 brothers and sisters, while she has only 2 brothers. The number of siblings in her generation is lower than that in the generation of her parents, but her generation lives far better than her parent contemporaries. She has now moved with her parents from the old dilapidated adobe house into a flat of around 100 square meters under the government program of safe housing construction. By utilizing her courtyard, she provides catering and accommodation, and her father raises over 40 sheep.
Jehhan was competent in sports in both senior middle school and college, particularly excelling at track and field. Up to now, she remains an able woman, shrewd, dauntless, resolute, chipper, and vigorous. Her hearty laughter can be heard dozens of meters away. She is now 36 but remains single and childless. Nevertheless, she is very optimistic, extroverted, and full of passion for life and devotion to parents.
Jehhan also studied in the vocational training center. After graduation from the center, she worked as the monitor of a company in the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, responsible for nearly 100 workers. When asked about her criteria for a husband, she replied rather readily, “Nationality and age are not important, but ideally a college graduate like me? Otherwise, our outlooks on life, values, and the world might be different, and how can we live together?” When asked about the desirable number of children for her, she answered, “Probably 2?”
“I must have my children and I must help them go to college. None of us locals wish to have many children.” She concluded.
Every corner oozed with an air of peace and prosperity, a languor of ease and contentment
The investigation team dispatched by Shaanxi Patriotic Volunteers Association drove along the periphery of the Taklimakan desert frantically for the destination of the Maigaiti Village, where maxirap, a uyghur mass square entertainment in the form of songs and dances, was being held in the name of the Chinese pop singer Dao Lang.
At the scene of maxirap they visited, they noticed in particular the costume of a uyghur lady named Gulibostan, who attracted the public attention for her lithe and graceful figure dressed in a brilliant red dress and a long waistcoat with alternate colors of yellow and green. she told the team that years before she had been blinded and bewitched by religious extremists, but now she can come back to normal life because of the vocational training center.
To be frank, people like Gulibostan are not few in Xinjiang. With the rapid improvement of public living standard over the past 20 years in the wave of reform and opening up, more and more Muslims have the opportunity to go abroad, and up to now more than 30,000 Muslims have finished the hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia under the annual organization of 2000-3000 pilgrims by the Xinjiang government. That is a best proof of the openness of Xinjiang, the progress of the local religion, and the tolerance of the religious policy.
The team’s interview with Gulibostan was held in her home. Sitting in her courtyard where she provides catering and accommodation, they chatted with her and her husband over cups of tea. Under the grape trellis, the courtyard looked mottled in sunshine, with a tableful of sweet melons and fruits and inviting pancakes. Whiffs of tea fragrance kept rising out of the cups. Time in the courtyard seemed exceptionally soft and slow, with occasional bleats of sheep and cackles of hens. A private car was neatly parked in the yard, every corner of which oozed with an air of peace and prosperity, a languor of ease and contentment. Apparently, it is a wealthy, harmonious and happy family.
As is known to us all, uyghur women are virtuous, diligent, capable, thoughtful to family and filial to seniors. With the development of economy and the improvement of their educational level over the past two decades, the social status of uyghur women has also improved. With less reliance on men, they begin to long for more equality and freedom, and their needs from husbands are naturally different from those in the past. The current divorce rate of Xinjiang ranks 3rd among all the provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.
In fact, Uyghurs aged below 35 have begun to abandon the concept of “early marriage and early birth” held by their older generation due to the combined influence of universal education, multiple opportunities for seeking wealth, and increased costs of living. The results of the 6thnational census shows that Xinjiang ranked 5th among 24 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions in terms of the percentage of people with higher education background. In southern Xinjiang, the policy of 14-year free education has been universally practised, and the program of 15-year free education in all parts of Xinjiang is being steadily promoted (namely 3 years for preschool education, 6 years for primary school education, 3 years for junior middle school education, and 3 years for senior middle school education). Universal education and more years spent on education result in the obvious delay of first-time marriage for the locals. A new ethos of pursuing free love and happy marriage has gone viral in Xinjiang.
an activist and researcher of human rights and politics
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