In the 1980s, as China began to open its economy to the world, Beijing Publishing Company editor Wang Xingjuan became increasingly aware of women’s struggles to adapt to change. After retiring in 1988, she and a group of colleagues founded a non-governmental women’s research institute to examine trends in women’s employment and political participation.
Their research confirmed the difficulties women were facing in a China in transition – from unemployment to divorce, domestic violence, and a sense they had nowhere to turn. Determined to offer support but constrained by their limited resources, Wang Xingjuan launched China’s first women’s hotline in 1992. As she said, “We were lacking material resources…[but] we had a group of people like me – women who were enthusiastic about working to improve women’s lives.”
The hotline was hugely successful from the start. Today, it serves 600 calls each month. And over time, the initiative grew into the Maple Women’s Counseling Center – with Wang Xingjuan as director – providing not only counseling services for women, but also gender-sensitivity training workshops for police, judges, doctors, and local officials.
“When a woman is having difficulties,” says Wang, “if I can give her some help or stretch out a hand to her, it costs me nothing but gives me a kind of feeling that I have achieved something.”