Yang and Mei have seen their lives deeply transformed thanks to Aide et Action. Our project aimed at empowering vulnerable women in China has helped them fulfill their dream of opening a restaurant.
Yang and Mei, respectively 45 and 60 years old, were previously among the millions of women in China facing difficult working lives. In 2017, however, realizing it is never too late to learn, they decided to join the training workshop of Aide et Action. This led to not only a beautiful friendship, but also the opening of their very own restaurant. These two ladies could not be happier today.
Increased difficulties for women
They defied the odds doing so. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 report on gender disparities, China ranks 100th out of 144 economies in the world in terms of women’s economic status, opportunities, political participation, health and well-being. Despite the significant progress made in reducing this inequality, many women still face serious difficulties such as, among other things, insecure and unsafe working conditions, with limited opportunities for promotion.
That’s why in 2013, Aide et Action decided to start working in China to help vulnerable girls and women empower themselves by developing their own livelihoods. To have the biggest possible impact, our project works at various levels: it creates community awareness about women’s disadvantage and possible solutions, builds their capacity, develops peer support networks and provides training. These activities aim to change the mentality of women by giving them confidence in themselves, and what they can achieve in life and work. This helps them claim their rightful spot in society. The story of Yang and Mei is the perfect illustration.
A much-needed social platform
Mei is 45 years old, and for years has worked away far from home for lack of better opportunities. In 2016, when her son was old enough to start secondary school, she decided to return to her hometown in Qianjin. Sadly, this did not improve her situation. Mei started playing for money and became addicted to gambling. Seeing Mei’s difficulties a neighbor told her about Aide et Action’s workshop project in the area, so Mei decided to become involved.
Yang is 60 years old and has always lived in Qianjin. She’s known for her hospitality, sincerity and involvement in the community. So naturally she had heard about the project and became involved with it, being one of their most active members.
The two women met in the workshop in 2017, participating in activities such as pastry making and creating stationary and paper art. The workshop functions as a social platform where women can meet, exchange skills, and help each other. Feeling reassured and well-supported in this environment, they have the opportunity to strengthen their skills in entrepreneurship, management skills and professional know-how. At the same time, it is a place where the participants form close-knit groups and where strong friendships are born. This was the case for Yang and Mei.
“By participating in the same activities, we developed the common wish to start our own business.” says Mei. “The workshop encouraged us, stimulated us and helped us gain confidence in ourselves.” After discussing this with each other, the two workshop colleagues who had become close friends, took the decision to open their own restaurant together. “After a while, we felt that we had gained the necessary skills and knowledge. We felt we knew what was needed in terms of personal commitment and resources.” adds Mei.
A new sunny horizon
Their small restaurant called “Yang Guang Ming Mei” which means “Yang and Mei’s Bright Sunshine” opened on 30 August 2018, on an old street in Qianjin City. “At first, as with any business, there were of course challenges and obstacles,” says Yang, “but they did not put us off! On the contrary, we tackled the challenges with gusto and were able to solve any problems with the support of the government, Aide et Action and other members of the women’s workshop. We work hard, but we are very motivated! “
From the first month onwards, the restaurant, which receives some subsidies from the local government and is supported by the women’s workshop, has been making a significant profit helping the two proud owners to improve their economic situation and that of their families. The two friends have also been able to work in a flexible manner, allowing them to successfully juggle family and professional responsibilities, to their great delight.