She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
Xie Lihua was born in 1951 in Chanyi County, Shandong Province. In 1969, she served in the military before she began to move towards a career as a journalist and development worker. In 1985, she became editor and reporter for China Women’s Daily and, eight years later, its deputy editor-in-chief. The same year, she founded China’s first magazine for rural women, Rural Women Know All. Alongside, she developed a series of programs for rural women that included literacy courses, micro financing and reproductive health.
She says: “I hope for the day when the whole nation will be mobilized to support the survival and development of rural women and they will no longer be on the margins”.
Lihua Xie – China
Even before she turned forty, the fabric of Xie Lihua’s life was woven with words. During her eight years at China Women’s Daily, she rose through the ranks from reporter to editor, to department director, to editorial board member, to deputy editor-in-chief. After forty, Rural Women Know All seeped into her veins. She worked on this magazine day and night, as if obsessed.
In the summer of 1992, Xie Lihua visited her hometown in Shandong where she had lived until the age of five. She felt a renewed sense of connection with her “roots” and she said, “In my adulthood, I have become one of Beijing’s residents, but the moment I set foot on the soil of my hometown, I hear the rich village sounds and taste our local food, I truly feel that my roots are still deep in the earth of the village”.
China remains an agricultural nation and 70 per cent of its women live in rural areas. After fourteen years of military life and eight years in the media, Xie Lihua came to the sudden realization that she did not understand her country or her countrywomen. Therefore, at a time when everyone was fighting to join the wave of commercialism and partner with the corporate world, Xie opened herself a door to the villages.
She started a magazine that was close to the heart and opened up communication between the urban and the rural. She undertook this task as a humble effort for the masses of “autumn chrysanthemums” and “jujube blossoms” that were working for their dreams of comfort and happiness.
Finally, accompanied by the New Year’s firecrackers and the whistling of the winter winds, 50,000 copies of the “maiden issue” of Rural Women arrived in thousands of homes. There was no cheering, no applause, and not a single person showed up to express congratulations. Like a farm girl from the countryside wandering in the city, nobody would give Xie a second glance. Because of this, even the words of advice from her husband, who is also a journalist, were difficult for her to accept, and she cried tears of disappointment.
Before establishing Rural Women, Xie Lihua’s had wanted to become a writer. She began to write articles that were published at the age of nineteen, and has been writing ever since. But Rural Women changed the course of her life.
A rural girl from Anhui wrote to Xie Lihua with trembling hands. In her letter, she wrote about her mother at home who could not borrow money to support her eldest brother’s college education, and had no other choice than to sell her blood. After her eldest brother, there was still her second brother, herself and her younger brother. When would her mother’s sacrifices end? She started to resent school, and after graduating from secondary school, she escaped to Beijing.
She wandered in a city where she did not belong, feeling lost and confused until she met Xie and became an employee at Rural Women. Here, she accomplished what she had never dreamt of doing – finding nourishment for rural women’s spirit in the city. Her life was filled with new energy and vitality.
She expressed her gratitude towards Xie in a letter entitled “You Touch My Heart”. The letter said, “You, a woman who already had a successful and happy life and career, who could have discarded the village in search of a more comfortable and glamorous career, have chosen instead to struggle and sacrifice for the hardships of us villagers. As a peasant’s daughter, how can I not see and feel this without being filled with joy and comfort?” Xie Lihua read this letter with tears in her eyes.
In the eleven years since she founded Rural Women Know All, Xie Lihua has encouraged rural women to participate in the work that she does. They have been trained to become correspondents for the magazine, making it one that is truly for rural women and by rural women. They also play an important role in the development and implementation of community projects.
Because the purpose of Xie’s work is to serve rural women, she relates to them as if they were her family. No matter what questions or problems they bring up, Xie responds with compassion and patience, and does her best to help them reach a resolution.
Other than working girls like Han Cun, Xie has sought support from her husband, daughter, Wu Qing, Bai Mei, Shi Huiyun, Chu Huihui and many other friends. Without them, she feels she would not have managed to do anything. Xie always wants to move ahead.
She says, “For a time I was content, intoxicated with the feeling of being needed by others. But now, merely doing volunteer work can no longer satisfy me.”
At a time when women’s rights issues seem to be gaining attention, marginalized rural women appear as weak and helpless as ever. Although half of the nation’s 800 million peasants are women, this huge community is rarely heard and elite voices dominate.
Ten years ago, Xie Lihua started articulating rural voices through Rural Women, and ten years later, she has not given up. “I hope for the day when the whole nation, from political institution to social community, will be mobilized to support the survival and development of rural women so that they are no longer in the margins, so that our work is no longer isolated volunteer work.” (1000PeaceWomen).
Founded on April 3, 1949, the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) is a mass group united by women from various ethnic backgrounds and circles for the further emancipation of women. It is the largest NGO for improving the status of women in China, and its basic function is to represent women, protect women’s rights and interest, and promote gender equality. (full text).
Sorry, I can’t find more info on Lihua Xie, China, being sure it is the wanted person.
Working Meeting with the All China Women’s Federation;
All-China Women’s Federation Research Institute (1991), Statistics on Chinese Women 1949-1989;
DANWEI Chinese media, advertising, and urban life.