The women challenging gender discrimination and violence in rural China

‘I used to see my husband as superior to me, but now I know we are equals,’ Jing Xiufang, the leader of a local grassroots women’s organization, said, “and women have the right to pursue their own goals and work.”

Discrimination and violence

Although women’s rights and gender equality are written in the constitutions and laws in China, discrimination against women is still prevalent in rural villages. For example, unlike men, married women are deprived of their entitlements; their land is often withdrawn or occupied by others after marriage.

Many rural women also experience domestic violence, but divorce is not an option because their families are unable to support them if they leave their husbands.

Weddings, funerals, and various other ceremonies and customs in villages all reinforce the idea that men have ‘more value’ than women. Therefore, giving birth to a baby boy is highly expected in rural families, pressuring women, and meaning daughters are often neglected. Challenging these beliefs is tremendously difficult due to vested interests and long-practised customs – but local grassroots women’s organizations are taking on this challenge!

Women challenging the status quo

As the leader of the rural women’s grassroots organization, Xiufang helps rural women call for change to traditional village rules and regulations; Zhoushan Village was the first village in the country to successfully enhance the gender sensitivity of village regulations. Clauses safeguarding the entitlement to village welfare for divorced or widowed women were also incorporated into the regulations.

Since the success of Zhoushan Village, a wave of change has swept across villages and provinces in China, bringing about more gender sensitive regulations; this has also transformed national policies.

Spreading change

Now, Xiufang and members of the rural women’s grassroots organization share their experience of changing village rules and regulations with other villages. They also showcase their talent and have initiated innovative activities, including local dramas, holding weddings and funerals that respect both women and men, and showcasing murals and embroidery to educate the public about the implementation of gender sensitive rules and regulations.

This entry posted by the Gender Justice team at Oxfam Hong Kong, on 7 December 2016.


  • Members of the rural women’s grassroots organization share their experiences.
  • Jing Xiufang, the leader of a local grassroots women’s organization.

What you can do now

  • Organize and speak out in your communities.
  • Watch and share our #SayEnough campaign video:

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