A vocational training program is giving rural women financial independence and a lot more.
A program that trains rural women in beauty care is helping to untie them from domestic chores, to improve their social lives, build their confidence and give them more financial independence.
Five years ago the job options that lay before Liu Yang, then 25, of a small village in Qianxi county, Tangshan city, Hebei, were meager indeed: selling clothes or serving food in a restaurant.
Then, in April 2015, a two-month training project was set up in Qianxi for women with no income so they could learn makeup, skincare and hairstyle design skills. The training was offered free of charge, and organizers were flooded with applications, so they had to whittle down the list to 40, the oldest of whom were 48 years old, Liu says.
When Liu applied to do the course she was staying at home taking care of her two-month-old child.
"I thought it would be great to learn how to make myself more beautiful," she says.
Liu turned out to be one of the most diligent students, growing a passion for what she had learned, and decided to set up a beauty salon in Qianxi several months after completing the course. Before long she was in charge of a thriving business whose services included making up brides, performers and others.
Each of about 30 staff working for her, many of whom had trained with her, takes part in about 100 weddings a year. The salon was turning a profit within two years, and now the annual income is about 200,000 yuan ($29,900), Liu says. It has branched out into other areas, too, such as renting out wedding dresses.
Liu says she now works an average of seven days a week, eight hours a day.
"Many friends said I have totally changed in appearance and disposition."Liu' s husband, a factory worker, used to be the bread winner of the family, earning 3,000 yuan a month. Liu now brings in between 7,000 and 8,000 yuan a month, so they have more money for their parents and child. Her plan is to expand the business out of the county.
"Many women here drop out of school early and get married when they're about 20," she says."Their whole life is then tied to those of their husband and children. The program helped create a better life for us."
Wang Lijun, deputy director of the Beijing Yichuang Development Center for the Public Welfare of Rural Women, one of the organizers of the program, says many women in rural areas are involved in few social activities because they have a limited education or occupational skills.
"Many can only take part-time jobs or ones that require lower-level skills."
The training program aims to help them increase social communications and build confidence and independence, she says.
"Only if women have a career of their own and income can they gain respect from family and society."
Since 2015 about 5,240 rural women with low or no income across China have taken part in the program.
Liang Ran, 32, of Neiqiu county in the city of Xingtai, Hebei, took part in the program from July to September 2018. At the time she had just given birth to her son and experienced depression, waist ache and had put on weight, she says. At one point she refused to leave the house and stayed with the baby all day.
"I was sensitive and highly irritable, and I was bored with life."
Her appearance greatly changed after she did the makeup course, and applying makeup was something she grew to love doing. After the course a friend invited her to learn yoga in Shanghai, and in May last year she opened her own yoga studio in Neiqiu. It has about 15 customers a day, each of whom pays an annual membership fee of 1,688 yuan. This year the studio had monthly revenue of about 10,000 yuan, Liang says.
She has got into the habit of putting on makeup almost every day, or whenever she is dealing with students or is having photos taken of herself, she says. These are taken outdoors from time to time to be used in advertising for the club. She used to find it hard to speak publicly, she says, because she felt uncomfortable about her looks, but that has changed, she says.
Zhang Jianmin, secretary-general of the China Women's Development Foundation, an organizer of the program, says the courses have been welcomed in many regions.
"Women get a chance to learn work skills, which increases job opportunities and competitiveness, as well as their family's income. In addition, while becoming more confident and independent, their social status can be better recognized."
Zhang says she hopes many more women can benefit from the courses.