Government workers of the Cangshan District of Fuzhou, Fujian Province, visit the home of a resident with diabilities (right) in June (XINHUA)
When Mureli Ajati opened the doors to his own home-based convenience store it was the fulfillment of a life-long dream. The 34-year-old resident of Manas County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, who has polio, has used the location of his street-facing family home to his advantage.
This spring, Ajati, who lives with his mother and brother, was encouraged by the county's disabled persons' federation to set up the store. He was impressed by the speed and efficiency in which the operating license and other business documentation was processed and delivered to his door.
The contact information of suppliers and how-to guidelines were also supplied and the motivated entrepreneur's operation is now running smoothly.
Xie Yande, the newly-appointed head of the federation, and his co-workers were instrumental in helping realize Ajati's dream. Since the beginning of 2014, some 200,000 staff members working at government institutions across Xinjiang have been assigned in groups to work in villages, some of which are poverty-stricken. The program forms part of a three-year-long campaign launched by the regional government in the hopes of improving people's livelihood.
A four-member team headed by Xie took up residence in Ajati's village on February 25, 2016. One of their top priorities since then has been poverty alleviation using targeted measures.
Unlike past experiences that heavily rely on outside donations and assistance, Xie's team focus on finding solutions from within. They conducted door-to-door surveys, registering eight people with disabilities from seven impoverished households. Plans were then designed around the requirements of each person with disability, according to Xie. For example, villagers are encouraged to raise livestock or poultry, provide labor service or buy shares in local projects to increase incomes. In addition, Xie's team and local officials are pairing up with each targeted impoverished family to ensure full implementation of the plan.
Chicken breeding was one item on Xie's agenda, as some of the villagers livi ng with disabilities wanted to convert their backyards into farms, but struggled to obtain funding. To date, Xie's team has provided more than 600 chicks worth 17,000 yuan ($2,500) to the needy households. "We have a shared belief that it's better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish. Besides, we are making close friends with local villagers through various communications," said Xie.
Like Ajati, Yakufu Maysuti also lives with a disability and saw his dream reach fruition with the assistance of government sponsorship. A native of Shanshan County, some 220 km away from Manas, Maysuti comes from a big family with scarce land resources, and the only income he had was from his son who did odd-jobs around town. Earlier this year, he was given seven sheep for breeding along with the necessary funding and breeding information. Moreover, his family was relocated into newly-built affordable housing twice as large as his previous shack. "I couldn't be happier with my life now," said Maysuti.
A villager with disability in Bayan County, Heilongjiang Province, feeds rabbits on May 13. The man has around 200 rabbits thanks to the financial and technique support from the local government (XINHUA)
Official data showed that some 1.74 million people in Xinjiang have been lifted above the poverty line in the past five years. According to the Chinese Government, as of late 2015, people in rural areas with a net income per capita of less than 2,800 yuan ($437) annually, equivalent to $2.20 daily, are deemed to be living below the poverty line.
In addition to existing national policies concerning poverty alleviation and people with disabilities, the State Council, China's cabinet, unveiled a new aid project targeting more than 20 million poverty-stricken people with severe disabilities on September 25, 2015, which became effective across the country on January 1.
Xinjiang still has 2.61 million people living below the poverty line. Among others, some 332,400 people with severe disabilities could benefit from the aid project by receiving monthly living subsidies and home-nursing allowances.
"All the assigned governmental workers in poverty-stricken villages will not leave until local poverty eradication missions are complete," said Zhou Junlin, Chairman of Xinjiang Disabled Persons' Federation.
"As Chinese President Xi Jinping had said, 'we are trying our best to make sure that nobody will be left behind on the road to build a well-off society by 2020.' That is our promise and also commitment," he added.
No one has better understanding of the importance of helping lift people with disabilities out of poverty than Zhang Haidi, Chairwoman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation.
As a national role model of self-respect and self-motivation, Zhang, 61, who became a paraplegic at age 5, has bitter-sweet memories since taking office in 2008.
At the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on October 3, Zhang said that during the past decade, people with disabilities in China have experienced changes in many areas. For instance, more legal documents are issued to better protect rights, driving licenses are accessible, seeing-eye dogs are allowed on public transportation and talented youth are admitted by normal colleges.
However, China's poverty rate in rural areas are double that of urban areas, as more than 70 percent of 85 million people living with disabilities across the country live in rural areas. Zhang said the obstacles for poverty-stricken people with disabilities include little access to rehabilitation, education, employment and funding.
Her view was echoed by Zhao Li, economics professor at Hainan Academy of Governance. Zhao said vocational training programs designed for people with disabilities, yet still capable of working, is a feasible solution running parallel with rehabilitation for poverty alleviation. More importantly, enterprises should play a key role in creating jobs for people with disabilities as part of their social responsibility.
Hadventure, a Beijing-based IT company, sets a good example in this regard. The company trained 30 people with disabilities in South China's Hainan Province to upgrade their typing skills. These staffs were then able to complete digital and hard copy data projects. "They did a great job, and their monthly salary could be more than 2,000 yuan ($300)," said Cao Zhe, Manager of Hadventure.
Making good use of technology is also something advocated by Zhang. Besides field surveys, compiling accurate demographics based on big data is a primary task of Zhang's organization to help enhance the efficiency of poverty eradication targeting people with disabilities. Currently, more than 4 million people with disabilities have been registered in the national poverty-stricken population database.
"Looking up to role models who lead a happy life through their own efforts helps building morale, strengthens self-confidence and cultivates self-motivation. I do believe that small changes from within could make a big difference," said Zhang.
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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