Educating Girls of Rural China is a charity partner of 2015 Chi Fan For Charity, which will take place this Saturday (Nov 7). Great seats are still available for one of Beijing’s best homegrown charity events, click here to see available restaurants.
Tien Ching has seen both sides of education for women in China. Born and raised in Beijing earlier in her life, Tien and her mother, a doctor, moved to poor, rural Gansu province, during the Cultural Revolution, where she saw up close what her life could have been like if she had been in another part of the country.
For many, education never enters the picture. “Girls were and are married off early to bring cash to the family as a dowry, and to become a source of labor for the new family,” she said. Tien saw other situations that left a deep impression on her, including where women were kicked out of a family for repeatedly giving birth to girls, or were sent to their family’s home to give birth on one condition: if the child is a girl, don’t come back.
After eight years in Gansu, Tien continued her own education in Beijing, before emigrating to Canada in 1983, where she has lived ever since.
Tien stored away the lessons of both her fellow women in Gansu and her own education for later in life. But she wasn’t spurred into action until 2005, when her daughter sang at a show in support of Go Girls! Education for Every Child, a UNICEF initiative to boost education for girls, especially in Africa. “If a woman is educated, her children will be educated,” Tien thought, and conceived of the initiative that has become Educating Girls of Rural China (EGRC).
EGRC has three primary goals: Sponsor female students from rural regions with their four year undergraduate studies in Chinese universities; sponsor female high school (grade 10 to 12) students with their three year studies in rural region high schools; and assist EGRC-sponsored students with BA diplomas to enroll in post graduate programs offered by Canadian universities.
To date, EGRC has supported 287 girls, mostly at the university level, but the program has now expanded to include some high school students.
“I’m quite proud that these girls and young women need more than just money. They need moral support,” Tien said. “Every summer I meet all the girls in their hometown.”
Tien has more to be proud of: EGRC’s girls have a 100 percent graduation rate, with two of their top graduates having gone on to Tsinghua University and Manitoba University in Canada, respectively.
“I am happy to study here,” Liu Yanxia, an EGRC alumna and current Manitoba University student, wrote. “I can see that the students and professors are passionate about the research and the projects they are working on. Now I believe if you love and have passion for something you will do well. I look forward to my second term of studying."
A support commitment for a student requires at least RMB 6,000 per year only for tuition, but more like RMB 15,000 per year including food and living expenses. High school students require about RMB 5,000 per year.
Fundraising is EGRC’s biggest challenge, Tien said. And it’s not getting any easier, either in Canada or China. “It’s very difficult to compete with local charities in Canada. People think, ‘China has many millionaires and billionaires, why don’t they help?” she said.
This post first appeared on thebeijinger.com on November 2, 2015.