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Gender discriminations among young children in Asia

 | 
Isabelle Attané
, 
Jacques Véron

Part II - Gender discriminations among young children in China

7. Improving Girl Child Survival in Rural China: Research and Community Intervention Projects

Li Shuzhuo et Zhu Chuzhu

Résumé

La préférence pour les fils et son corollaire, la discrimination des filles, sont un trait constant de la culture chinoise, qui se perpétue aujourd’hui, en particulier dans les régions rurales. Cette préférence pour les fils dans un contexte de baisse rapide de la fécondité, elle-même suscitée par une politique draconienne de limitation des naissances, résulte dans une surmortalité infantile et juvénile des filles. Ainsi, l’expression de la préférence pour les fils s’est intensifiée avec la baisse continue de la fécondité depuis les années 1980, se traduisant par un déséquilibre croissant du rapport de masculinité des naissances et une mortalité infantile des filles supérieure à la normale.
Depuis le milieu des années 1990, avec le soutien de la Fondation Ford, les auteurs ont collaboré avec la Commission nationale de planification des naissances afin de mener une étude sur la surmortalité infantile des filles. Ils ont analysé les relations entre les variations régionales des niveaux de mortalité infantile et des facteurs tels que le statut de la femme, la préférence pour les fils, le contexte socioéconomique et les mesures de limitation des naissances, dans le cadre d’une étude intitulée « Différences dans la survie des enfants en Chine rurale : implications politiques ».

Texte intégral

Background

1The kinship system, as one of the core elements of cultures and norms, is an important factor causing excess female mortality (Dyson and Moore 1983, Das Gupta 1987, Das Gupta and Li 1999). In traditional patrilineal society, lineage is defined in terms of men alone, namely, men are social reproducers of family and social status while women are merely biological reproducers for a lineage other than their own (Dyson and Moore 1983, Das Gupta 1987). Under such a rigid patrilineal system, there is a strong demand for boys and a woman is not considered to have value until she gives birth to a male child. This kind of system is very common in China, South Korea and North India (Das Gupta and Li 1999). As a part of culture, strong son preference and discrimination against girls have always existed in Chinese history. In contemporary China, especially in the rural area, it has not disappeared, though one of the important aims of the Chinese revolution is to eliminate gender inequality (Arnold and Liu 1986, Xie 1989, Wen 1993, Poston et al. 1995). Son preference results in a disadvantage for female survival, especially for infants and children (Tu 1990, Wang 1991, Li Y. 1992, Hao et al. 1994). It is also proved that excess female child mortality in China is strongly related to the low status of women (Li and Feldman 1996, Das Gupta and Li 1999). Meanwhile, excess female child mortality is negatively related to fertility level (Li and Feldman 1996), and the relative increase in Chinese female child mortality after the implementation of the family planning programme is the result of the government-guided family planning policy (Ren 1995). However, the fundamental reason for excess female child mortality was not the family planning policy, but son preference and fertility decline (Das Gupta and Li 1999). Because attitudes towards childbearing have not yet been totally changed, the change in birth behaviour in China has been influenced largely by the family planning policy and less by socio-economic development. It is possible that the family planning programme has some impact on abnormal sex difference in child mortality. However, if attitudes towards childbearing change little, even if people were to voluntarily reduce the number of children promoted by socioeconomic development, the sex ratio of child mortality may still be abnormal under the existence of son preference (Li and Feldman 1996). Accordingly, it is true that the son preference has been intensified with the continuous low fertility after the 1980s, which leads to a continuous increase in the sex ratio at birth (SRB) and excess female child mortality. The sex ratio for children under five years old increased from 107.1 in 1982 (Zhang 1997) to 120.0 in 2000 (Zhang 2002), a phenomenon known as “missing girls” (Johasson and Nygren 1991). These facts suggest the existence of an abnormal intrusion in girl’s survival and development rights, especially in rural China.

2To study child mortality, a new general analytic framework devised by Mosley and Chen (1984) is considered to be suitable for analysing excess female mortality in developing countries, which includes socio-economic and cultural factors at individual, household and societal levels, as well as biomedical and environmental proximate variables. The proximate variables include maternal factors (Hobcraft et al. 1985, Hao et al. 1994), environmental contamination (Waldron 1987), nutrient deficiency (Choe et al. 1989, Paul 1990, Tu 1990, Wang 1991), injury (including infanticide) (Wolf and Huang, 1980, Hull 1990, Johasson et al. 1991, Banister 1992a and 1992b, Coale 1992, Zeng et al. 1993, Lee et al. 1994) and personal illness control (Waldron 1987, Das Gupta 1987, Wu 1991). Socio-economic and cultural factors operate through those proximate variables to affect child mortality, and those factors are distributed at individual, household, community and societal levels. Factors at community and societal levels have been put forward above. At the individual and household levels, the deterioration of the household economy situation (D’souza and Chen 1980, Das Gupta and Li 1999) and scarcity of boys in a family (Bourne and Walker 1991, Muhuri and Preston 1991) will increase the extent of discrimination against women and place girls’ survival in a disadvantageous position. Meanwhile, the perception that the value of boys is higher than that of girls results in an unequal allocation of family resources between the two sexes (D’souza and Chen 1980, Waldron 1983). Accordingly, raising the value of girls for their parents will alleviate their vulnerable situation (Bhuiya and Streatfield 1991, Das Gupta and Li 1999). Moreover, the improvement in the level of education could reduce the excess female child mortality, since enabling women to be more knowledgeable could change the power relations within the family and improve their status within the household (Caldwell 1986, Bhuiya and Streatfield 1991, Bourne and Walker 1991).

3Since the mid-1990s, with support from the Ford Foundation, we have cooperated with the China National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC) to study excess female child mortality in China and implement intervention practices. The 1982 census, showing excess female child mortality at the ages one to four, first attracted our concern. After the 1990 census data were released, we explored child mortality and its gender differences during the 1950’s and the 1980’s in China, in rural and urban areas, as well as in different regions and among different nationalities. The results show that excess female child mortality for those under the age of one occurred first in the mid-1980s and has increased; for those aged one to four, it occurred first as early as the 1960s; then, after the 1980s, there was an improvement in girls’ survival during these years (Li and Feldman 1996).

4Excess female child mortality is prevalent in both rural and urban areas in most provinces and among large minorities. However, compared with the research findings on other developing countries, especially in terms of the urgent need for a solution, the studies on excess female child mortality in China have some drawbacks and could not meet the practical need of society. First, until now, most studies have been conducted with data at the macro-level and there are few systematic studies conducted on the micro-level, such as those conducted in Bangladesh and India. Second, previous studies have not yet investigated the difference in the levels of child mortality and the child survival environment from a gender perspective. Third, previous studies lack the components of policy analysis and policy interventions. Some existing results are quite preliminary and are not sufficient to determine, among all the socio-economic, cultural and health-related factors at individual, household, community and societal levels, just what the major factors resulting in excess female child mortality are, and what the possibility of improving the survival environment for female children would be. Thus, detailed policy suggestions have not yet been provided for improving the survival environment for female children. Most importantly, previous studies mostly remain in the research stage and lack practical community intervention programmes to improve the survival environment for female children. Accordingly, we analysed the relationships among regional gender differences of child mortality and women’s social status, son preference, socio-economic, and family planning factors. The explorative results demonstrate the prevalence and seriousness of excess female child mortality. Meanwhile, our explorative study attempted to arouse the attention of the academic field, and ignited our interest in carrying out a community intervention project to improve the survival environment of girls.

5To carry out a community intervention project to improve the survival environment of girls requires the understanding of gender differences in children’s survival environments in rural China and their underlying reasons. For a period of two years, beginning in 1996, we carried out the study, “Gender Differences in Child Survival in Rural China: Policy Implications”. With this understanding, it is possible to propose relative solutions and specific policies to improve the survival environment of girls through community development.

Empirical research

6Our study shows that excess female child mortality existed throughout the 20th century (Li and Zhu 2001). The underlying primary reason for excess female child mortality is the traditional birth culture with strong son preference. Continuous low fertility after the 1980s exacerbated this problem, especially in regions such as the Yangtze River Basin and Yellow River Basin, where the traditional Chinese family system and birth culture prevail. That is, the declining low fertility resulting from dramatic socioeconomic changes and effective government-guided family planning programmes in recent years is a condition for excess female child mortality. The above results are consistent with those made by Das Gupta and Li (1999), i.e. the fundamental reason causing excess female child mortality is son preference and fertility decline.

7We researched child deaths, under the age of five, in 1994 and 1996 in a county in western China; this research included household and community investigation, focus group discussions and clinical investigation (Li and Zhu 2001, Li et al. 2004). According to the analyses of these data, we found very serious excess female child mortality and discrimination against girls in what we called their “survival environment”–in food and nutrition, preventive and curative health care, accidents and injuries (Li and Zhu 2001). But we determined that the primary reasons for excess female child mortality were the discrimination they received in places where they were born and where health care is provided, as well as abandonment and infanticide.

8Through our research, it is found that the discrimination against girls is selective. Girls with the following characteristics are exposed to higher risks: infants within 24 hours of birth; girls who are second or higher in the family birth order without birth quota: those who are delivered at home, died at home; those who have only sisters; those who are born in a region with strong son preference and in the remote communities (Li and Zhu 2001, Li et al. 2004).

Intervention framework

9We demonstrated that excess female child mortality is an important aspect of sex discrimination in China and then went on to analyse the possibility of alleviating and eliminating gender differences in children’s survival environments. By creating a framework for intervention, we made policy suggestions to improve the survival environment of girls. This framework was first used in “New Culture of Marriage and Childbearing Entering into Thousands of Families”, which was carried out by the NPFPC in 39 counties from 1998-2000, with apparent effects.

10The framework includes:

  1. Promoting awareness about the fact of excess female child mortality as well as its seriousness and its social and demographic effects. This would serve to attract the attention of the whole society and government of various levels to facilitate solutions to this problem.
  2. Conducting legal education related to the protection of women and children in communities at various levels, evoking public awareness and consciousness of the law, and using the law to protect women and children’s rights and improve female children’s survival environment.
  3. Introducing the work on improving the sex ratio and excess female child mortality into the community family planning services and management.
  4. Helping women to become engaged in productive projects and thus to participate in every field of social life and earn an independent income. This would improve women’s status in family and community.
  5. Giving training on reproductive health knowledge in communities to help women realize how to protect their own interests and rights. Providing quality care services in family planning to women.
  6. Establishing and promoting a new birth culture, which centres on gender equality to replace the traditional culture, which centres on son preference.

Practice of the projects: Chaohu experimental zone

Establishment

11The basic framework was used in the NPFPC activities in the 39 network counties, but it became apparent there were still problems to be attended to. An experimental zone was therefore created in Chaohu city in Anhui Province, located in the Yangtze Basin, with a population of four and a half million. Its family planning implementation is just above average with a comparatively high SRB and excess female child mortality. The Juchao district of Chaohu city was one of the four key counties involved in the national activities to improve the survival environments of girls among the 39 member counties. The government of Chaohu city regarded this project as very meaningful in strengthening the family planning achievements and stabilizing low fertility, so the government suggested it be carried out in the whole city.

12After careful consideration we decided that an adjacent area with homogenous cultural and economic conditions would be a great advantage for our intervention policies and framework. Therefore, we suggested that the NPFPC and the Anhui Population and Family Planning Commission establish the Chaohu Experimental Zone for Improving Girl Child Survival Environment using the intervention framework with the national programme of the “New Culture of Marriage and Childbearing Entering into Thousands of Families”. The Chaohu government set up and started the project in March 2000 after half a year of coordination and preparation.

13Its purpose is to establish a favourable survival environment for girls in Chaohu by the use of direct as well as indirect intervention measures and with the aid of various reproductive health training and social development activities. It is hoped that what is learned here can be used to develop intervention measures and implementation strategies for improving girls’ survival environments in rural China. Experiences in Chaohu would be extended to the whole country through training programmes and social development projects at various levels. The results of these studies and community intervention projects on improving the survival environments of girls would be transmitted and communicated to the broader international society.

Implementation

14The Chaohu experimental zone is a giant and complicated social development intervention project. The implementation of the project is divided into three steps instructed by principles of practice, conclusion and extension. Many different institutions – local, provincial and national – are involved in various aspects of this project, and the Population Research Institute in Xi’an Jiaotong University is responsible for the technical support.

15During the pilot phase of the project (March 2000-February 2001), the emphasis was on training those who would be working as part of it. Promotion and education concerning the improvement of the survival environment of girls began in the whole city at the same time, and similar tasks were started in 32 key villages in five counties and regions. The point of this step was to instil social awareness of protecting girls’ survival and development as well as supporting the project members’ consciousness of the project.

16In February 2001, the project was extended to 256 townships, each with three key villages. The major concern was in the high-risk areas of girl child survival, and the objective was to implement direct intervention measures to improve girls’ survival and introduce the project into daily family planning practices. In January of 2002, each county introduced its experiences in the experimental zone and women activists explained to representatives at the meeting the changes experienced by individuals and the community since project had been implemented.

17By the spring of 2002, the project was further extended to every village of Chaohu. The point was to set up the harmonious cooperation between the experimental zone and the various levels of government and thereby to normalize and institutionalize the work involved in improving girls’ survival environments.

18The Chaohu Experimental Zone ended officially after the concluding meeting on 31 March 2003. Since then, work on improving the survival environment for girls has entered into the daily work and become one of the major projects of the Chaohu government and part of the NPFPC’s responsibilities.

Interventions

19The intervention strategy to be used in experimental zones is based on the national activities of “New Culture of Marriage and Childbearing Entering into Thousands of Families”, with the family planning system playing the central role. Also involved and working together are media, education, health, culture, women’s work, anti-poverty, public safety and judiciary departments. The objective is to promote a new marriage and birth culture claiming “gender equality”, “girl and boy are both preferred”, “girls are also heirs” to replace China’s traditional marriage and birth culture and construct a favourable environment for girls’ survival and development.

20The activities involved in this include marking out special columns in various mass media, utilizing every possible means in the community such as posters, galleries, wall papers, banners, handbooks, marriage and childbearing knowledge packages etc., as well as composing plays, showing films and organizing knowledge contests. People in these communities will carry out various kinds of public training and promotion activities to improve the survival environment of girls.

21Various kinds of panel meetings occur at different levels. The purpose of these meetings is to change people’s perception of birth and their attitude towards girls, and thereby protect girls. The panel meetings include those for mothers-in-law, women activists, fathers-in-law and village cadres and those with the theme of protecting girls with the law. To further the project’s intervention, a four-volume textbook, “National Activities for Establishing Network Counties for New Birth Culture”, was developed. These volumes include “Protect Girls with Law”, “Girl and Boy are both Preferred”, “Encourage Women to Participate in Socio-economic Activities and Foster Women Activists” and “Maternal and Child Health Knowledge”.

22Women activists are also organized and trained. The goal is to improve and enlarge their social influence to replace the traditional marriage and birth culture with the new one. Activities include “Life Cycle Activity Wheel” for women activists in 32 evaluation places every three months to promote the self-development consciousness of women, and to improve their economic, social and household status by giving women activists financial help with women’s development funds to develop production projects. Also, speech contests of various levels for women activists are organized to advocate the significance of improving the survival environment for girls, enlarge their social influence, and help them to become the representatives and a driving force for the activities of “New Culture of Marriage and Childbearing Entering into Thousands of Families”, as well as to become leaders in the experimental zone project. The “one for ten, ten for hundred” activities were carried out to establish the network of women activists by selecting women activists, “good parents-in-law”, “good daughters-in-law”. Moreover, the activities, such as quality of care services in family-planning and other training programmes for women concerning reproductive health, mother and child protection knowledge and production skills, were also launched.

23The purpose of the construction of a micro-level environment mainly involves teaching the public laws that protect female and children’s survival rights and interests as well as those relating to cases of female child abandonment and infanticide in rural China. This takes place with the cooperation of the public safety and judiciary departments.

24At the same time, our research focused on the female child survival high-risk areas in five counties and regions, where direct intervention measures were made and tracked to improve the survival environment. Along with the quality family planning services and scientific management methods, direct intervention measures were also implemented in the entire region, which were very effective. The measures included managing the use of ultrasound B scan, the issue of birth permit, health services for pregnant women, training people to help with birth delivering in designated places, visiting and providing services for families after a girl is born, establishing special files for girls of second birth order, and setting up an institution to report infant death as well as offering a bonus for reporting.

25In the experimental zone, these methods of improving the survival environment of girls become a normal part of daily family planning work by introducing the project work into the annual work plan and evaluation of the family planning work and into the activities of the “New Culture of Marriage and Childbearing Entering into Thousands of Families”. This means training and educating, supervising and evaluating members of the family planning staff.

Monitoring and Evaluation

26Based on the reality of the project, a supervising and evaluating system was set up and extended from key places to the whole area. Its elements include:

  1. Doing follow-up and baseline investigations of dead children under the age of five in the experimental zone. This involves collecting individual, household and community information about the dead child for comparison before and after the project to the purpose of evaluating the effects of the project.
  2. Collecting annual social and demographic information and composing adequate tables and drawing up uniform standards of implementation. Information is collected at the village level and then reported upward step by step. This information is used to compare the macro-changes and intervention effects in the experimental zone and will also be used to judge its development.
  3. Implementing participatory evaluation and supervision A simple questionnaire with 28 questions was composed according to six aspects of the framework of project work. Thirty-two villages were chosen according to their socio-economic, cultural and family planning levels and 640 individuals were chosen randomly in the thirty-two villages with an equal proportion of both genders and covering various age groups. The same questions were asked every six months to track changes in the public’s thinking and behaviour in the experimental zone.
  4. Implementing the “Life Cycle Activity Wheel” in the project villages. It is held every three months for women activists to track the changes in their ideas and behaviour.
  5. Making periodical field visits. The technical advisors of the project make a field visit every three months to inspect the development of the project and its problems.
  6. Making special investigations for areas where girls are exposed to high risks of survival and carrying out panel discussions of the problems, the reasons and the possible intervention measures for improving the survival environment of girls among different groups of people in order to determine intervention plans and follow-up plans.

27The Experimental Zone Project shows substantial achievements after three years of hard work. The major working goals have been reached. Girls’ survival risks have been decreasing. Data from the baseline investigation, follow-up investigation, 2000 census and daily statistics in the experimental zone all support our claim that the once escalating survival risks of girls in the experimental zone have been brought under control. There is a slight decrease of girls’ survival risks, which reflects the preliminary effects of the Chaohu experimental zone. From 1998 to 2002, the decrease in girls’ survival risks is demonstrated in the following three aspects:

  1. The sex ratio at birth and the sex ratio for children under five years are lower.
  2. Mortality for both male infants and female infants has dropped, the latter to a larger extent, which leads to an increase of the sex ratio of child death.
  3. Mortality for both male and female children (aged one to four) decreased, while the sex ratio of dead children fluctuates with only a slight decline. When the trend around the nation is considered, the effects in the experimental zone are very valuable.

28Those working in the experimental zone have implemented promotion, training and community development activities and trained a group of women activists to promote the construction and extension of “New Culture of Marriage and Childbearing Entering into Thousands of Families”. Consequently, there are great changes in people’s ideas, the preliminary community regulations have been set up and social consciousness in caring for and protecting girls has been raised. Our quick evaluation of 640 individuals in 32 evaluation places has shown that the public’s ideas and behaviours have changed favourably for girls’ survival in six major aspects of the intervention framework.

Diffusion and Dissemination

29What was learned in the experimental zone has been applied to promote the improvement of the survival environment of girls and the information has been brought to the whole country. As early as April 2001, in the National Family Planning Promoted Projects Training Meeting in Chaohu, sponsored by the NPFPC, those involved with the experimental zone presented theme reports on the vision, framework, strategies, measures and its preliminary effects. Representatives visited the project’s working places and communicated with project members and villagers. The achievements of the experimental zone were praised by the NPFPC and the representatives, so the NPFPC decided to extend the project around the country.

30In December 2002, the Anhui Population and Family Planning Commission started the provincial activities of “New Culture of Marriage and Childbearing Entering into Families” in Chaohu and extended the work pattern of the experimental zone. In addition, taking advantage of other important meetings, the work in the experimental zone was introduced to the purpose of enlarging its influence and seeking more support, such as the “Awarding Meeting for New Culture of Marriage and Childbearing Entering into Thousands of Families”, sponsored by the NPFPC in October 2001, the “Anhui Start-up Meeting for Concern about Girls Project and Discussion Conference for Directors of District-Level Family Planning Commissions”, held in October 2002, and the “National New Birth Culture Construction Discussion Conference”, held in April 2003. Influential mass media in China have reported in-depth on this work. and presentations regarding this work have been made at national and international conferences and special workshops.

31A Ford Foundation report on the project, “A Great Leap Forward for Girls”, published in the winter of 2000 on the foundation’s web site, has received wide attention. It was re-published in the on-line magazine “World Health News”, sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health, as headline news for its significant improvement in the worldwide efforts for protecting women’s rights, health, equality and social status. Families with Children from China, NJ Chapter, also donated to the project. These activities transmitted to the international society the work done by the Chinese government, society and public in improving the survival environment of girls.

32In order to extend the work in the experimental zone around the country and provide references for other similar projects, we are also engaged in composing the “Project Handbook” and “Project Evaluation Report”. The handbook and report provide a theoretical review of the design, work patterns, methods and effects of the Chaohu Experimental Zone from the perspective of social development design and evaluation.

Expansion

33Ways have now been found to normalize and institutionalize the project work and first preparations are being made for development of the community intervention project and extension of its experiences and patterns around the nation. Through three years of practice, the experimental zone has explored and established an adequate work framework, strategies, patterns and ways for improving the survival environment of girls in rural China. The practices have proved that the intervention framework we designed is practical and effective. The work in the Chaohu Experimental Zone has been approved by the NPFPC of the nation as well as that of the province and the city, and it is anticipated that it will play its role in the extension to the rest of the nation. The vision and behaviour of improving women’s status, improving the survival environment of girls and protecting girls’ basic rights have been fortified and extended in the practices: The NPFPC carried out the intervention project named “Caring for Girls Action” in 11 counties with high SRBs in 11 provinces in 2003; the Anhui Population and Family Planning Leading Group decided in 2002 to carry out the “Caring for Girls Project” in the whole province based on the work pattern in Chaohu Experimental Zone. Discussion and implementation are now in process to carry out gender promotion activities in family planning/reproductive health based on improving the survival environment of girls in the fifth UNFPA-CHINA country project.

Reflections

34In 1995 we started systematic studies on gender differences in child survival in China, then designed a community intervention framework and set up the first experimental zone in the country based on preliminary practices in 39 network counties around the nation. After many years of studying these practices, we have increased understanding as to how to improve marginal and vulnerable people’s well-being through social development and community intervention projects in China. Particularly, we have the following reflections based on the study and practices in the Chaohu Experimental Zone.

35The underlying reason for the survival environment of girls in China is the son preference in traditional culture, and the continuous low fertility exacerbated this problem, which is consistent with the existing research (Das Gupta and Li 1999, Hao et al. 1994, Li and Feldman 1996, Li Y. 1992, Tu 1990, Wang 1991). The worsened survival environment of girls is a sensitive problem that could be studied and the study results could be used in community practices once a reasonable and lawful way could be found and extended step by step. The practices have proved that the survival environment of girls could be improved, and the comparatively high risk in female children’s death could be reduced, which offers a bright future for China in this respect. The efforts towards social awareness of the seriousness of the excess female child mortality and for improving the survival environment for girls will be continuous hard work in the long run, and could even be frustrated at times. The effects of improving the survival environment of girls could only be shown in the long term.

36Training community women activists and changing the thinking of cadres, the community and the public is essential for the success of the experimental zone project. The thinking of any community and the public comes from a particular culture, which is determined by a particular kinship system. It has been proved that the kinship system is the important factor causing excess female mortality (Dyson and Moore 1983, Das Gupta 1987, Das Gupta and Li 1999), and a rigid patrilineal system leads to strong son preference (Das Gupta and Li 1999). Son preference and the low status of women result in a disadvantage for female survival, especially for infants and children (Tu 1990, Wang 1991, Li Y. 1992, Hao et al. 1994, Li and Feldman 1996, Das Gupta and Li 1999). Accordingly, training community women activists and cadres could gradually change the thinking of the community and the public, and the enhancement of the value of girls for their parents will decrease the level of excess female mortality (Bhuiya and Streatfield 1991, Das Gupta and Li 1999). Meanwhile, this is also the basis for the sustainable development of the efforts made for improving the survival environment of girls in rural China. Only when people’s ideas and behaviour changed due to the community development project could the social environment, which makes the improvement of the survival environment of girls possible, undergo real changes.

37Because both the government-guided family planning policy and the sustaining of a low fertility level play an important role in increasing female child mortality in China (Ren 1995, Li and Feldman 1996), it is necessary to combine the project work with the daily work of the family planning system, normalizing and institutionalizing the efforts to improve the survival environment for girls and promoting the initiatives in government institutions. The government is an important institution for the continuous development of efforts to improve the survival environment of girls, and also the key for applying the project framework in other areas in rural China.

38Theoretical studies should be carried out together with social practices. The responsibilities of social science researchers and practitioners should not be limited to discovering the existing problems in life, searching the reasons and solutions. The more important thing is to apply the results of theoretical studies in social practice, and improve social welfare through social development and community intervention projects. In this sense, theory preparations and design are necessary for executing and guaranteeing the quality of the project. Every social development and community intervention project should be based on rigorous theoretical studies; otherwise, there will be no guarantee for the success.

39The project of improving the survival environment of girls is a high-risk work, which has to be permitted, helped and supported by the government. On the other hand, despite its large investment, the social development project does not lead to direct economic benefit so it cannot get great financial support from the government, which focuses on economic work instead of social development work. Therefore, whether such a project is permitted, helped and supported by the government will be crucial for the implementation and success of the project. This is a very important thing to note for promoting the project of improving the survival environment of girls in other areas around the nation.

40Although the work should be carried out according to the vision, work framework, strategies and plans in the process of the project, it is necessary to supervise and evaluate the project results and discover problems in a timely way so that adjustments can be made to improve the project design and increase the applicability and extendibility of practices.

41It is important to make adequate use of various resources. The problems in the survival environment of girls are not limited to a certain region or a certain part of China. Instead, they are important social problems that will influence the social stability and continuous development in China in the long run, and this requires resources from many parts. But resources for a community experimental intervention project are always limited, so designers and implementers need to seek social support from every possible channel, mobilize every existing social resource and combine the resources. Practices have proved that relying mainly on human resources in the family planning system is a practical way of carrying out the project.

42The successful cooperation among academics, the government, communities and international societies is a guarantee for project implementation. The establishment, implementation and achievements of the Chaohu Experimental Zone for Improving Girl Child Survival Environment demonstrate that the Chinese government, non-government organizations, society and communities can combine resources to make efforts to improve girls’ survival. And this kind of participation and development is what is called for according to the Action Plan of the Beijing 1995 World Women’s Conference, and is supported by the international society. Such efforts have attracted international attention, helped to establish the favourable international image of the Chinese government and society concerning girls’ development, and demonstrated cooperation with the Action Plan.

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Auteurs

Population Research Institute
Xi’an Jiaotong University
Xi’an, Shaanxi, 710049, CHINA
Email: shzhli@xjtu.edu.cn; shuzhuo@yahoo.com

Population Research Institute
Xi’an Jiaotong University
Xi’an, Shaanxi, 710049, CHINA

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