Chinese rural women leaders attend the National Conference for Women Village Heads, sponsored by IRI.

Rural women, who constitute 75 percent of the female population of China, continue to lag far behind men in terms of political participation. To reverse this trend, and encourage women’s participation in rural Chinese government, the International Republican Institute (IRI) sponsored a conference for rural women leaders in Beijing from June 13-15, entitled National Conference for Women Village Heads. The conference, hosted by the Beijing Cultural Development Center for Rural Women (BCDCRW) and Rural Women magazine, was attended by women from throughout China, and covered topics on transparent governance, and the challenges that women face in village leadership roles.

During the event, women village heads identified challenges to village governance occurring nationwide, including the need to raise awareness of women’s legal rights in the face of widespread violations, particularly with regard to property rights of married and divorced women. Participants said that the conference boosted their confidence in their abilities to continue their leadership roles and encourage other women to become engaged in civic life. The conference organizers hope to hold a follow-up forum in 2008.

Since 2001, IRI has worked with Chinese women’s nongovernmental organizations on projects to advance the political participation of rural women and to enhance the capacity of rural women leaders to govern effectively.

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