I am woman, hear me roar

Updated: 2012-03-04 08:06

By Zhao Ruixue (China Daily)

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International Women's Day is on March 8. What does it mean to China's young women today? Zhao Ruixue finds out.

I am woman, hear me roar
Only two to three generations back, or just about 100 years ago, Chinese women were still largely relegated to the duties of giving birth, doing housework and farm work. They could not have imagined the great degree of independence that their granddaughters or great-granddaughters would be enjoying today in China.

Dong Xiaoxia, 30, armed with a bachelor's degree and currently working for a State-owned enterprise, is just one example.

She is outstanding among her peers, an achiever in both academic and professional fields. But she is still single, and that state sends her parents and friends out on a constant lookout for a suitable mate for her.

But Dong is rather enjoying her independence. "I think this is partly the result of all those years and effort of women fighting for independence and equal rights," Dong told China Daily a day before another business trip to India. "Otherwise, I would probably have been married off by my parents when I was about 20."

Her busy schedule is a little unsettling in that Dong does not have too much downtime for herself. She is either working overtime or on one of her many business trips,

I am woman, hear me roar
"But I still prefer to be independent." The price she pays for her independence is that marriage comes later, if at all. And there are many like her who struggle to strike a balance between career and independence and marriage and family.

Dong is a testament to the progress Chinese women has made in politics, economics and in society.

While their female family elders had largely been confined to a domestic existence and seldom seen in public, Dong and her peers are active in almost all walks of life, "holding up half the sky" in China.

Women in China first celebrated International Women's Day on March 8, 1924.

Thanks to the support from the Communist Party of China, the day has been commemorated each year in China since, with activities focused on equal rights at work and at home.

These days, the day has lost a lot of its original political flavor, and become more an occasion to show respect, appreciation and love.

It is also a holiday, in which the female workforce in China is entitled to half a day off on March 8.

But many of them are actually too busy to stop to smell the roses that day. Most of them would still be working a full day.

I am woman, hear me roar
"I was told that if work allows, I can have half a day off on March 8, but I'm afraid most of us at work won't be able to do it because we are too busy," Yu Guanghui, 43, a manager at a bank said,

"But my bank did give us gift vouchers."

"Women have to be clear with what they want," says Zhang Xiaomei. "Just be yourself. Cars and houses may not make you happy. Besides your career, your role as a mother and your commitment to family and friends is also crucial to your happiness."

Zhang, a member of the Fifth Session of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, currently in session in Beijing, is the publisher of a fashion and beauty magazine.

International Women's Day to China's young women is no longer merely a reminder of their rights and equality. Instead, it serves as a reminder that they are also holding up half the sky at home, in the family.

You may contact the writer at zhaoruixue@chinadaily.com.cn.

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