The Voices of Na Xi Youth

Today, many women are still facing gender discrimination in their family, schools, workplaces and society. When a woman doesn’t have a ‘stable’ job, her position in the family and her social status become much lower than other people. Especially, when a married woman, who doesn’t have a ‘stable job’ and didn’t get family’s support, then she must face various challenges and difficulties in her life. In China, a ‘stable’ job is a government job, which is viewed by the majority of the people to be more sustainable, provides higher income and higher social position than other jobs. Therefore, it’s a big challenge when a woman have her own interest and motivation to work on non-government jobs while her family doesn’t support the job she want to work with.

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In September 2015, I meet Yang in Chiang Mai city, Thailand. She is a participant in a regional workshop on women’s leadership skills in Chiang Mai. The workshop focuses on women’s leadership skills. It aims to urge participants to share and exchange knowledge on water governance and gender in the Salween and Mekong countries. Participants come from three countries: China, Myanmar and Thailand. All of them are young women. Most of them are working for their community well-being. As a facilitator of this workshop, I share my experiences on gender issues and create a space for our participants to share their life experiences and perspectives on gender in their region. Yang shares her personal stories on gender to us and we learn that she encounters various challenges and difficulties in her family. I do not know much about her before. When I meet her, she appears to be out-going and has a strong interest on women’s leadership skills. I also find out that she is very concerned about environmental issues and impacts of tourism development in her hometown.

Yang is currently working for an organization in Yunnan. Her organization helps children and youth to learn different cultures, languages and skills. She loves her work and she loves to work with children and youth. But her family doesn’t support her work because they think this kind of job is ‘unstable” and earns low income, so her family always looks down on her job. Nonetheless, she doesn’t want to give up this job because she wants to help more people around her.

Yang is a Na Xi ethnic. She is thirty-one years old when I meet her. She gets married with a Tibetan man three years ago and they have a little cute boy together. However, before they get married, her husband’s parents do not support their marriage. The family does not like her because she has no ‘stable’ job and plus she is non-Tibetan. In order to be accepted by her husband’s family, she has to be submissive and accepts discrimination from her husband’s family. Eventually, she is able to get married with her husband and move to stay with her husband and his parents.

But the family still looks down on Yang’s job and insults her dignity. One day, she wants to invite her female boss to come to her home, but her husband’s parents refuse her request. Yang is disappointed and very sad because her female boss cannot come to her home and be introduced to her family members. For Yang, her boss is a good woman who always helps her staff if they encounter any difficulties. Yang says, “I really thank my boss. Without her help, I won’t be able to go to Beijing to have eye surgery to treat conjunctivitis. I felt helpless situation but my boss helped me”. She further says “my family looks down on my job and looks down my friends. I have no right to host anyone in my home”. For these reasons, Yang wants to continually improve her leadership skills and work abilities in order to get her parents-in-law to recognize her works. In 2015, she applies for Weaving Bonds regional workshop and is accepted.

In that workshop, she has a chance to meet other young women to discuss women’s and environmental issues in their homes. The ten-day workshop helps her to understand ongoing gender and environmental issues in Mekong region and enhances her knowledge in these two fields. After the workshop, she receives a small fund from Weaving Bonds to conduct a research on water issues in her hometown. In this project, she goes to affected community and collects empirical information from local people. Later, she invites her organization’s members, friends and students to hear her research findings and learn various experiences and research skills.

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Now, Yang is very happy what she doing now and she hope she will get her family support on her work in someday and help more people in her hometown.

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