Cablegate: Prc: White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett

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1. (SBU) Summary: In a November 18 round table with White
House Senior Advisor and Chair of the White House Council on
Women and Girls Valerie Jarrett, Chinese activists working on
issues effecting women and girls in China noted that while
there had been significant improvements in China on women's
issues since the 1995 World Conference on Women, further work
was needed, particularly in political participation, health,
and economic development and opportunities. The proportion
of female delegates in the National People's Congress (NPC)
had increased, but remained insufficient. Access to
healthcare services remained a challenge for women,
especially rural women; and there was still no specific
criminal statute on domestic violence. Chinese women
continue to face challenges in balancing personal and
professional demands. End Summary.

Women Leaders Discussion Forum

2. (SBU) On November 18, White House Senior Advisor Valerie
Jarrett met with a group of 18 Chinese women and men engaged
in work on women's issues. The participants spoke about the
work of their organizations to improve the lives of Chinese
women and girls, highlighting both traditional and innovative
methods, such as micro-lending, being used to address the
challenges facing women in China. Participants noted the
importance of taking country-specific conditions into account
when crafting strategies for empowering and elevating women.
Despite recognizing significant improvements in China over
the last fifteen years, all participants cited the need for
additional efforts, particularly in the areas of political
participation, health and economic disparities. Senior
Advisor Jarrett briefed on U.S. initiatives to improve the
lives of women and girls in the U.S. and globally.

Women's Political Participation Continues to Fall Short
--------------------------------------------- ----------

3. (SBU) Wan Yan, Deputy Director of the State Council Office
of the National Working Committee on Children and Women
(NWCCW), reported that while the proportion of female
delegates in the National People's Congress (NPC) had
increased, it still fell short of the thirty-percent mark
required by the Beijing Platform for Action that was agreed
upon at the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing
in 1995. According to Wan Yan, female deputies comprised
over twenty-one percent of the 2009 NPC. China only had
three female cabinet members, she pointed out. Asked about
strategies used to increase political participation by women,
Wan Yan cited the example of Guangdong provincial officials,
who were now requiring that one-third of candidates standing
for village elections be women in order for the elections to
be recognized as valid.

4. (SBU) Zou Xiaoqiao, from the All China Women's Federation
(ACWF), acknowledged that political participation in rural
regions was "not optimal." To increase grassroots political
participation, she said, the ACWF cooperated with villages
and counties to train women in the skills needed to serve as
village leaders.

Challenges Remain in Health, Social Arenas

5. (SBU) Access to healthcare services remained a challenge
for women, especially rural women, Zou noted. The ACWF was
working with the government to provide cancer screening and
aimed by 2011 to provide 1.2 million women the opportunity to
receive such health checks. The NWCCW, noted Wan Yan, was
focusing efforts on lowering maternal mortality. In 2001,
one in 10,000 Chinese women had died in childbirth. By 2006,
that number had been reduced because of funding for pre-natal
medical care. Wan added that while most rural women
previously had given birth at home, now 88 percent of women
gave birth in hospitals. Gao Xiaoxian, Chair of the Shanxi
Province Research Association for Women and Family, commented
that in addition to health care and health screening, basic
health education remained a problem in rural areas. To
address this deficit, her NGO was working to increase health
education through the establishment of health clinics and

6. (SBU) Chen Mingxia, a professor at the Institute of Law at
the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, described efforts
made by her NGO, the Network for Combating Domestic Violence.
Over the last fifteen years, the Chinese public generally
had acknowledged the phenomenon of domestic violence, which

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also had been addressed peripherally in existing Chinese law.
However, there was still no specific criminal statute on
domestic violence, Chen said.

7. (SBU) Wang Xingjuan, founder of the Maple Women's
Counseling Center, emphasized the importance of mental health
to women's overall wellbeing. The Center primarily served
rural women, single parents and victims of domestic violence.
Noting that suicide rates for women far exceeded those for
men in China, Wu Qing, of the Practical Skills Training
Center for Rural Women, explained that her organization was
focused on suicide prevention. (Note: A 2007 China Daily
article reported that China's suicide rates were among the
world's highest and that rural suicides outnumbered urban
suicides in China.)

8. (SBU) Several participants noted that Chinese women faced
challenges in balancing personal and professional demands.
Feng Cui, head of the China Association of Women
Entrepreneurs (CAWE), noted that two-thirds of woman
entrepreneurs were responsible for taking care of their
families (which in China typically includes an older
generation as well as children), a situation which was often
an obstacle to career advancement.

Overcoming Economic Hurdles; Poverty Reduction
--------------------------------------------- -

9. (SBU) ACWF's Zou discussed government efforts to provide
interest-free micro-loans to women as a poverty-alleviation
strategy. These loans were primarily used to help women
start their careers and set up companies, Zou said. China,
women largely did not enter the business realm until the
1990s, and even then, women worked mainly in private
enterprises such as clothing and catering. However, some
women have recently made inroads in traditionally "male"
fields such as the steel, automotive, and hi-tech industries,
commented Feng. CAWE's Feng said her organization provided
legal aid and financial assistance to its members to support
women's small and medium-sized enterprises, noting that these
loans typically averaged 50,000-100,000 RMB. The recent
financial crisis had impacted women-owned enterprises in
China. A June 2009 CAWE survey found that 13 percent of
women-run enterprises had cut employees, she said, but
despite reductions in staff, many had been able to survive.

Legal Aid, Education and Media Issues

10. (SBU) Guo Jianmei, a prominent women's rights lawyer,
spoke about the legal assistance and advocacy efforts of her
Women's Law Studies and Legal Action Center. While demand
for legal aid far exceeded supply, Guo said, she and the
Center's twelve lawyers worked to select cases that best
represented challenges facing Chinese women, and ones that
had the potential to influence policy and set precedents. In
her view, over the last fifteen years, women's legal issues
had been on a bumpy, but hopeful, pathway. A continuous
increase in the number of NGOs focusing on lawsuits
protecting women's rights was one hopeful sign. However, she
said, a lack of human and other resources for this type of
work remained a formidable obstacle to progress in the legal
arena. (Note: On November 30, Peking University informed
Guo that the Center needed to focus solely on legal research,
vice legal aid, or disassociate from the university.)

11. (SBU) Education of girls is crucial, Wu Qing, of the
Practical Skills Training Center for Rural Women, said.
Observing that mothers were often a child's first teacher, Wu
noted that educating a girl educated an entire family. Wu
emphasized that one of the goals of her program was to
educate girls to become "global citizens" and "whole people."
Education helped women understand their rights. Illiteracy
remained a serious problem in China, with one in ten people,
or 100 million citizens, illiterate. Wu invited Jarrett to
visit a rural women's school on her next trip to China. Zhao
Jie, Director of the Gender and Participation Research Center
at the Yunnan Province Academy of Social Sciences, pointed
out the need to draw on unique aspects of minority cultures
in educating girls, and to capitalize on local knowledge to
empower women and girls.

12. (SBU) Zhang Yue, anchorwoman of the CCTV program "Half
the Sky," noted her program was the only television show to
focus exclusively on women's issues. The program addressed a
range of topics, including girls' education, trafficking in
persons and political participation of women, and provided a
valuable and unique platform for the discussion of these
issues in China.

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