Before March 2012, I knew nothing about G(irls)20 Summit. It was by chance that I learned about the summit through Shanghai Roots and Shoots, and this led me into another world, making me think about the role of women and girls in a country's economy for the first time.
The G(irls)20 Summit 2012 will focus on the opportunity gained in terms of strategically engaging women in agriculture and the opportunity lost as a result of violence against women. As the delegate of China, I am so proud but also very nervous about the responsibility that I have. China holds the largest national population around the world. At the same time, China is also one of the biggest agricultural countries in the world. With more than 650 million women and girls, it is undeniable that females are a huge power in China's economic development.
The good news is that the Chinese government has already realized the important role of women in the economy, specifically in agriculture. They have implemented lots of policies and laws to enforce the equality of women, including giving fair treatment at work, prohibiting workers from firing women due to maternity leave, etc. However, not many people in rural areas fully understand the importance of girls and women. To change this would take more engaged force, as in China's history and Chinese traditional culture, women and girls have been "belongings" to men for thousands of years. Women are not allowed to have their own thoughts but to listen to their husbands; their voices were never heard by others and this "tradition" in our culture sets an obstacle to against investing in women and girls in order to accelerate the economic growth. Sometime when the inequality between men and women reaches an extreme, this will lead us to a problem related to the violence against women.
The opportunity lost as a result of violence against women and the opportunity gained by women are somehow combined and closely related. In China, according to data, nearly a quarter of the women experienced domestic violence; the number is astonishing. When I think about the topic "violence against women," I have always wondered why, why is violence against women mostly reported in rural areas of China, especially in those less developed cities? One pattern can be easily found in the cases of violence is that many women do not hold actual jobs; the fact that they do not "contribute" anything to the family makes them extremely vulnerable to domestic violence. However, one simple way to change the situation could be engaging women more into the work force, in say agriculture, or in other words, invest in girls and women. Along with the development of the family, economy will come with the equal rights of girls and women.
Despite the shocking number of victims in violence, the same research also shown another shocking fact. Over 50% of the women choose to remain silent! This is an even more concerning problem. We want to hear their voices, we need to hear their voices! It might be hard for the government to give a specific number of how much female contribute to the economy, but one thing is for sure, if we cannot hear the voice from every single women in the country then the goal of engaging and empowering girls and woman is not reached.
For me, the G(irls)20 Summit will give me an opportunity to amplify the voice of girls and women in China. Thanks to Nissan, Google, Norton Rose & Scotia Bank for their support for empowering girls and women around the world. With their support, more and more voices can be heard on every corner around the world. Don't ignore the power your own voice just as we cannot ignore the value of girls and women. We want to hear your voice!