According to the Annual Report on Left-behind Girls in China's Rural Areas (2016), issued by the China Social Welfare Foundation on March 1, girls living without parents in rural areas lack care both physically and mentally.
"Left-behind" girls in rural China refer to girls whose parents have moved away from their hometown and sought employment in cities and towns.
The report surveyed six provinces and regions, including southwest China’s Guizhou and Sichuan provinces, central China’s Hunan Province, northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, northeast China’s Liaoning Province and north China’s Hebei Province.
It is noted that left-behind girls are a particularly disadvantaged group with regards to the characteristics of ‘gender’ and ‘left-behind’, demonstrating their worrisome situation in the sectors of life, education, physical condition, mentality and safety.
According to the report, left-behind girls are generally confronted with a dual dilemma in both physical and mental conditions.
Findings show about 71.4 percent of girls live in poverty-stricken families and over half of parents return home to visit their children less than once per year.
Craving their parents’ love, about 70 percent of the respondents were introverted with a strong sense of loneliness.
Meanwhile, a majority of left-behind girls surveyed were also in a critical health condition. More than 72 percent of them always drank unboiled water and nearly 15 percent drink it every day.
About 16 percent occasionally wore underwear and 28 percent only washed it every one or two weeks.
In addition, most left-behind girls obviously lack a sense of self-security and self-protection awareness. In particular, issues around sexual safety still faced rigorous challenges, said the report.
It also implied that a lack of parenting may impact girls’ education. A large number of respondents had difficulties in their studies and some even had to stop school after their compulsory education ended.
Furthermore, the report suggested that the living situation of girls left in their hometowns varies from region to region.
In more deprived areas, left-behind girls are more introverted and in worse sanitary conditions. Meanwhile, their parents were more likely to hold a long-held perception that men are entitled to more privileges than women, according to recent research.
More respondents in Sichuan, Hunan, and Guizhou provinces lived alone and spent more time doing household chores compared to those in other regions.
Faced with the alarming situation, experts called for the integration of social support from school, family and community to a networking mechanism to convey love from relatives, teachers and neighbors to the girls.
Accordingly, the authors of the report made the following six suggestions on the enhancement of left-behind children’s survival and development:
1) To improve policy mechanisms on girls and strengthen the enforcement of related policies.
2) To improve left-behind girls’ guarding mechanisms and establish relevant safety systems.
3) To build up a social service scheme on the basis of the family as a unit.
4) To develop health and safety education and construct a safe protection network.
5) To extend media publicity on the protection of girls’ rights and interests.
6) To strengthen joint forces with social organizations to assist left-behind girls.
(Source: China Women’s News/Translated and edited by Women of China)