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Qinhai Province Sala Girls Middle School
Community Council Meeting

Background Information

Xunhua County is located in the east of Qinhai Province. There are 14 different ethnic groups including a majority 60.3 % of Sala, and minorities such as Han, Tibetan, Muslim, Dongxiang, Manchu and other nationalities make up their population of 113, 013. The county is listed as one of the poorest counties by the government. The per capital income in 1998 was RMB720; the overall income of the county was RMB8, 260,000, 27% of its expenses.

The county's school finance solely depended on the central government. At the end of 1998, lack of funding led to a school enrollment rate of 93.1% for elementary school age children, 84.1% for girls, and 78 % for Sala girls. However, entering middle school and high school rate among girls was 40% and 19%. Local officials aimed at the completion of six-year mandatory schooling for all children.

Sala girls' education was so behind that they became a group who received unfair social status and high unemployment rate.

In the fall of 1999, the Phelex Foundation and Finnish Embassy in China worked together and established two projects: Phelex/Kallio Tuition Assistance and Phelex/Rutanen Spice Garden.

The Phelex Foundation persuaded villagers, especially mothers to participate in the decision-making process, which took place during community council meetings. In December 29, 1999, 53 representatives including 29 women attended the first meeting. 5 women and 6 men were elected to form a committee, which would be responsible for school projects and related issues such as project supervision, management, tuition assistance' distribution and the fairness in all.

Mr. Han Yongdong, the head of the local education bureau, indicated that the Foundation's projects provided opportunities for women to take part in social events that promote women's confidence and social status.

Mr. Ma Fengsheng, a county official who is also a Sala, pointed out that for the first time Sala women participated in such a social event, and it finally broke the old tradition that Sala women's roles were limited in their housekeeping duties, and educating children was not a mother's responsibility. Now Sala mothers joined the committee and make decisions for the benefit of their children and themselves. This amazing change would accelerate the overall progress of Sala people's life.

As of today, a few years have passed. Newer participants have replaced some committee members, but the community council is a well-run system that has been continuing.

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