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«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»

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Our son migrated to Guangdong province in 2005 and told us to take it easy. He sent remittances for hiring people in the busy season. I spent two hundred yuan to hire people each year during the past two years, but I did not do so this year because of the increased labour cost. Sometimes, my daughters come to help during the busy season and buy medicines for me because I have arthritis.

Sometimes, I also gave them money, because I have extra money now. My son is not yet married. He plans to get married after he reaches thirty. Society is changing.

Boys and girls meet at work in the place they have migrated to. We had to marry Buyi people in the past, but now we can marry a person of any ethnic group.

Neither one of my daughters married Buyi men. My grandchildren got a better education than my daughters did. My daughters’ ideas are different from ours, too.

The oldest daughter only delivered one son, even though she can have another child according to the family planning regulations19.

Recently, we harvested six hundred kilos of rapeseed and sold more than four hundred kilos. We harvested five thousand kilos of rice and sold about three thousand kilos. We go to the market every Friday in the nearest municipality. We buy pork, tofu, and vegetables. Every month, I make rice wine for my husband to drink. In the past, we bought it in the market because we did not have enough rice.

The men in this village drink a lot and women hate that, but it is difficult to stop them.

Now, there is no need for us to pay tuition fees anymore. We have enough food to eat and enough money to buy fertilizer. I am raising two pigs and use new feeding technologies. There is no need to cook pig feed anymore. I only mix rice husk and maize with pig additive. I sell rice every year, and there is enough rice husk to feed the pigs. These days, the government provides more support to the poor and marginalized people. I joined the medical cooperative, paying 10 yuan per year, which is important for me because I have arthritis. If I had no illness, life would be very good, because we do not have to worry about food and clothes anymore. Now, it is easy to borrow money, too. In 2004, we borrowed 3000 yuan to buy a ploughing machine and paid 300 yuan interest. We do not like to borrow money from the bank because of the high interest. There is no interest when you borrow money from your relatives and neighbours. We only borrow money when it is really necessary. In 2006, we built the biogas facility and spent 1000 yuan. The government provided some of the materials. There is a problem with the contracted land; it is difficult to plough because there is a shortage of organic fertilizer. But now that we have started to use a ploughing machine, it is easier.

19 The Guizhou family planning regulation generally allows rural farming households to have more than one child. In urban areas, however, most urban households are allowed to have only one child.

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6.4.3 Life story 3 Name: Zhen = EGO Age: 61 Cohort: 1970s cohort Other household members: husband, one son Household headship: de jure male-headed and de facto female-headed household Village: Dabuyang Figure 6.4: The genealogy of Zhen Zhen’s introduction I have three sons and two daughters. All got married, except my youngest son. One son-in-law is from another province. He got acquainted with my youngest daughter when they worked together. They got married soon after that and are now living in Zhejiang province. My husband is a fengshui expert (see Chapter 4) and engages in a few agricultural activities.

Formation stage I got married in 1965, when I was 18 years old. My marriage was arranged by my parents. They wanted their daughters to live nearby, so that we could take care of them when they were older. My hometown is the village of Maiwa, in the same municipality, four kilometres away. I observed zuojia and stayed with my parents (niangjia) for five years after my marriage. I came to live with my husband and parents-in-law in 1970 and delivered my first child, a son, in 1971. My husband is the only son in the household; he has three sisters. His two sisters were still at home at that time. I began to learn ploughing after I started living with my parents-in-law. When we married, my husband worked in another municipality, after he graduated from professional agricultural school. In order to take care of

92 Chapter 6

the household, he stopped working there and came back to farm after the first baby was born. Then he began to learn farming, but he did not like it very much. He always went out to act as a fengshui master. We did not live separately from my parents-in-law because he was the only son. We did not have too much to manage at home, and household decision making was simple.

I delivered the babies at home and had to resume working in the field three days after delivery. My parents-in-law were working in the collective, so I had to bring the children with me when I worked in the collective. From 1976 to 1978, we did not have enough rice to eat and had to grow maize in illegally reclaimed land, to make up for the food shortage.

Maturing stage In 1981, we got a land share of eight people. It took ten months to finish the land distribution process in the village. I did not go to the sites when they allocated the land and my husband was outside to do construction work at that time. We did not get very good land; it was located far away. I cultivated three mu of paddy fields abandoned by other households because of a labour shortage. We had no money to buy fertilizer, experienced food shortage, and could not feed ourselves until 1984.

In the middle of the 1980s, our two oldest sons were in middle school and the other three children were in primary school. In 1999, my youngest son attended professional school but I had no money to allow him to finish the study. Then, in 2001, he went to work in Guangdong province. My youngest daughter got good marks at school, but she came back to help me after she saw that we were very tired. She finished five years of study and her older sister got three years of study.

But they never blamed me, even though they felt some regret that they did not get a higher education. I felt life was hard from 1986 to 1990, because all the children were in school, but I tried my best to bring them up.

Before the mid-1990s, I had to make clothes for the children and was very busy every day. I had to cook and to raise swine, even though I was very tired. My husband did not engage in a lot of farming and continued practicing as fengshui.

He normally ploughed and carried manure. I had to carry out all other agricultural activities. I also had to collect fuel wood for lack of cash to buy coal. My mother-inlaw was very strict and unhappy if she ever saw me relaxing. But I needed rest and tried to find opportunities to go out to chat and relax. I pretended to go to the field, where she could not see me.

Matured stage We stayed in an old, small, three-room house with my parents-in-law after we got married. In 1995, we built a house with the help of the unpaid labour from relatives and friends. Most materials we made ourselves. We did not spend a penny on hiring people and only provided food for them. We even made the bricks and doors ourselves. We only spent 7000 yuan buying cement, steel frame and glass. In this period, the children also grew up and helped with agricultural production.

In 1988, my oldest son began to help me with agricultural production and I felt a little better. In the early 1990s, two sons migrated and relieved my big burden. My daughters, who also helped me in agricultural activities, migrated in

93Women’s life stories and social change

the middle of the 1990s. Things improved. In 1997 and 1998, two of my sons got married and I had to have enough money to give them. I began to diversify, growing more crops, raising more pigs, and cultivating more vegetables in the home garden to sell.

In 2000, my oldest daughter-in-law requested that we divide our household into small houses, because she was unhappy that I gave more money to the second daughter-in-law in marriage than to her. The reason was that the second son got married later and we had to give more money to them to buy goods because prices had gone up. The oldest daughter-in-law quarrelled with me and requested the division of the household. All the paddy fields were divided into three equal parts and each son got one part, in return for which they were required to give us 300 kg of rice every year. Now, only the oldest son cultivates his land.

The second and the youngest son have migrated out. As a result, we are ploughing their land and do not ask the oldest son to give us rice.

Life has improved because the children have grown up. We have enough food to eat. I can cultivate the land and do not feel so tired now. Sometimes, we hire people to help with transplanting and harvesting. We also get subsidy from the government. This year, it is 300 yuan. I am taking care of a grandson because his parents are migrant labourers. It is not very difficult because he is nine years old. These days, my daughter also sent her daughter to me because she and her husband want to work in a factory. I will take care of my granddaughter for two months. I am still collecting fuel wood. I sell at least one pig and one buffalo every year. I am planning to construct a biogas facility the coming winter, because many households already use it. My second son is building his new house but he could not come back. He sent money to us and asked us to hire several people to construct the house.

6.4.4 Life story 4 Name: Fen = EGO Age: 54 Cohort: 1970s Other household members: a husband, one son and one daughter-in-law, one daughter, one daughter-in-law, and one grandson Household headship: de jure male-headed and de facto female-headed household Village: Dabuyang

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Figure 6.5: The genealogy of Fen Fen’s introduction My husband is a carpenter and we have one son and three daughters, but unfortunately, one daughter died in 2003.

I was the former female village leader and the villagers like to ask me for help. I am willing to help others, even though I am not the village leader anymore. I feel better these years, after experiencing a lot of hardships.

Formation stage I got married in 1973 at the age of 20 and lived in niangjia for one year more. My hometown is Xiaobuyang, a neighbouring village. When I had just moved to my husband’s house in 1974, I lived with my parents-in-law and three unmarried brothers-in-law. One brother-in-law was already married and had his own household. I delivered my first daughter in 1975. We had only one room to live in.

We separated from my parents-in-law and established our own household in 1976 with nothing. In 1981, we moved into a small house near a well, built with the wood of our own trees.

It was a joy to work in the field during the collective period because we chatted a lot, but we did not have enough food. I could not feed my children and we had to supplement the rice with maize. At the end of 1980s, the village began to allocate land to each household. It took almost one year. I got land for a family of five (three children, my husband and I) because my youngest daughter was not born yet. We did not know the duration of the contract. Many people thought it was temporarily contracted. My paddy field was 10 mu with 9 parcels and upland I got 10 mu with six parcels. Although we had little money, we tried the use of fertilizer. As a result, the rice yield was higher and life improved after two years.

We had enough rice to eat from 1983 onward.

95 Women’s life stories and social change Maturing stage The house became too small for my household and my youngest daughter fell into the well, which almost killed her. In 1990, I built my new house, even though I had to borrow money and rice to finish its construction. I did not want to wait until I had enough money to build the house, so I borrowed money to buy cement and steel. All the other materials – such as stones, bricks and window frames – were prepared by us, our relatives, and the neighbours. At that time, the tradition was to treat the helpers to food instead of paying them money. It took us one year to finish the house. It was the first house in the village with a concrete roof. My main income came from selling rice. We did not have much income from other crops. My husband did some carpentry and earned some money selling the products. He usually helped the neighbours and friends with carpentry tasks and only earned free meals.

Matured stage In 1995, the CBNRM project started in our village and I was elected female village leader, because this project promoted women’s participation. I was busy attending different kinds of activities, but I also had more opportunities to visit the outside world and places where I had never been. In 1996, I planted 80 peach trees, with the help of the CBNRM project. In 1998, they began to bear fruit. I earned 700 yuan that year. Later, the yield increased and I can now earn about 2000 yuan every year.

I also bought other fruit trees and they all grow well. In 2003, I had some strawberry beds and I earned an strawberry income of 1300 yuan. My children grew up and they began to migrate after having graduated from middle school.

Life was improving.

I was unlucky in 2002. From childhood, my second daughter suffered from heart disease. In 2002, after several years of migratory life, her illness began to get serious. We tried many ways to make her better, e.g. by combining Chinese herbal medicines with new medical technology. I spent 20.000 yuan on medical expenses, and have just finished paying back the loan. Unfortunately, she died in 2003. I felt like another person during the last two years before her death. I worked very hard to earn money. I cried about my bad fortune and my hair soon turned grey. It was a terrible period for me. All my income was spent on curing her illness, but she still could not recover. If I had not spent so much on her illness, I would be richer now.

My husband just followed me and did not offer other solutions. We just worked hard to pay for the loan we had taken. We tried to raise swine and buffaloes, and cultivated different kinds of fruits to get more money.

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