In December 1995, inspired by the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, Jianmei Guo founded China’s first legal aid clinic, The Center for Women’s Law Studies and Legal Services of Peking University. The Center helps women protect their rights, drafts proposed legislation for the government, and publicizes the plight of women abused by their husbands, employers, or government. Its pioneering work has helped to strengthen and safeguard women’s rights, while expanding the impact of Chinese civil society.
A key part of the Center’s success has been its ability to foster connections among clients, other NGOs, the media, and government. It established China’s first non-governmental website and hotline to provide legal services nationwide, and in 2005 launched “Women’s Watch-China” — an evolving program that will gradually be built into a searchable database and public policy center on women’s rights. It has built a network of legal aid partners, and has cultivated relationships with journalists who have helped advance the dialogue on women’s rights.
The results are clear: Since the Center’s founding, its team has assisted more than 7,000 people, tried nearly 500 cases, and won more than half. As Guo Jianmei puts it, “Through our work, we are trying to help women abandon the tradition of bearing their burdens alone.”