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In China, a mother lifts her family from poverty

© UNICEF video
In China’s Henan Province, 17-year-old Liu Duoduo’s mother raised a herd of ducks to increase their income and send Duoduo back to school.

UNICEF’s flagship annual report, ‘The State of the World’s Children’, launched on 11 December 2006, focuses this year on the double dividend of gender equality, which helps both women and children overcome poverty. Here is one in a series of related stories.

HENAN PROVINCE, China, 9 January 2007 – Like millions of youngsters across China, Liu Duoduo, 17, dropped out of school because of poverty.

“I was in school for nine years,” says Duoduo, who lives with her family in a small town in Ruyang, Henan Province. “Because our family was poor, I had to drop out and help with the farming work.”

Duoduo’s mother, Chen Aiqing, wished that her daughter could stay in school for as long as she wanted.

Millions out of school

“When Duoduo dropped out of school, both her father and I were worried,” says Ms. Chen. “But we couldn’t do anything about it. We have so many children to support and we were also very poor.”

In China, millions of children are out of school for a wide variety of reasons. Many like Duoduo drop out because their families cannot afford to continue to send them; others have migrated to urban areas and are not registered to go to school in their new home.

These children face serious risks and challenges, including lack of work due to inadequate education, as well as drug use, violence and sexual exploitation.

© UNICEF video
Duoduo and her mother Chen Aiqing weigh duck eggs.

A second chance

Only recently have Duoduo and her family been able to turn their lives around, thanks to a start-up grant they received from the Chinese Government. Using the grant, Duoduo’s mother purchased a herd of ducks and subsequently increased the family’s income by selling ducks and eggs.

“Ever since we started raising the ducks, we have been doing much better,” remarks Ms. Chen. “It really helped improve our lives.”

Now that the family is making its way out of poverty, Duoduo has been able to go back to school. She attends a learning centre supported by the China Association of Science and Technology in collaboration with UNICEF, and hopes to have a chance to become an artist.

While catching up with her academic studies, Duoduo enrolled in a drawing class – part of the livelihood training offered by the learning centre. Young people at the centre also learn from their teachers and peers about such topics as labour laws, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse to ensure that they can protect themselves once they enter the job market.

Pursuing her dream

“Since 2005, more than 3,000 boys and girls have gone through the livelihood training programme in our county,” explains Wu Xinhui of the Ruyang Association of Science and Technology. “With the skills they learned, many have been able to find a job either nearby or away in other cities.”

Duoduo enjoys her time at the learning centre, but she is most pleased with the drawing classes. Her ambition to be a painter is backed by her mother.

“Duoduo likes to draw, and we want her to have a special skill like that,” says Ms. Chen. “If she is really good at it, then I will support her all the way in pursuing her dream.”




UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on the heavy toll that poverty takes on the education of Chinese children.
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