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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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In 2000, I built my own house by spending thirty thousand yuan. My main income came from watermelon, tobacco, and raising cattle. Animal husbandry is one of my main incomes. We raised female buffaloes and sold a calf every year before we migrated in 2003. We spent all our savings on building this house and borrowed ten thousand yuan from my siblings. Our relatives and friends helped us by providing free labour. It was the hardest year for my household. I had to borrow money to build the house and had to pay for the children’s education.

During those two years, my son went to the municipal middle school and I had to pay more for his study as well. I also planted plum and pear in 2002, and intended to earn more income from cash crops, but unfortunately, most varieties were not very good, since we did not know much about the seedlings.

In 2003, my husband and I migrated. It was rare for our generation to migrate at that time. It still is, even now. We went with another couple because their brother was working in a pig feeding farm and arranged everything for us.

We sold our pigs, horse cart and cattle, and got several thousand yuan. We took all the money with us in case we could not find a job, even though the job had been prearranged. But we were lucky and earned a lot of money that year. So we returned to our hometown and paid back all our debts at the end of 2003.

In 2004, my son migrated to Guangdong province after finishing middle school. We went there with him and worked there for one year. It was easy for us to migrate there, because we did not worry about finding jobs. We only brought enough money to cover the costs of transportation. We knew that we could find enough money for our daily maintenance. We gave good paddy fields to my parents-in-law to cultivate and the other land to good friends. We did not require money or products from these friends. When we came back, they gave us some maize and sunflower seeds as a renting fee.

Matured stage In October 2007, my father-in-law died and we came back to arrange for his

–  –  –

funeral. We were still working in Jiangshu province. Now, I have no pigs because I just came back and have not decided whether we will migrate again or not. If we do not migrate, we want to raise pigs on a large scale, but the issue is that we do not have enough capital to buy piglets. One piglet costs seven hundred yuan, the highest price I have ever known. It is easy to borrow money now because more people have savings, but I do not want to borrow. The bank asks a very high interest. In 2007, we bought a truck for our son to start a transportation business and hoped that he could stay at home. He did this for half a year but migrated a month ago, because most young people have left the village and he did not have any friends with whom he could spend the evenings.

Last month, in June 2008, my daughter passed her entry exam to college;

she is now waiting for the admission letter. If she is admitted to university, we have to go out to earn money for her study. Otherwise, we will not migrate, because we want to have a rest. It suffices for us to survive through our agricultural income and my husband’s income from circulatory migration. We went to many cities and did several kinds of work: raising pigs, building houses, doing cleaning tasks, et cetera. I feel that the migration experience has made me more broad-minded. I do not quarrel with villagers about trivial things, such as lost chickens or cattle damaging the seedlings. I also plan to improve sanitation by building new toilets.

But we still need to keep some traditional habits. When we first migrated, people thought it was money-consuming. Now, villagers like to migrate and even borrow money to buy tickets. Whatever happens, you can find enough money to pay for your transportation. It is good that migration gives the children an opportunity to get outside exposure; it is not necessary for the parents to give them money. The children are bold enough to migrate because they get enough information from other migrants. But in the past, it was difficult for us to know the outside world.

We saw it only on TV. When we migrated, we had doubts about it, since the few former migrants existing then had not given us much information.

I have a big natal family with six siblings in this village. I always go back to my parents, to share materials and information with them. I make decisions together with my husband. Women are more talkative than men are, but still only make decisions on trivial matters, such as daily necessities. Important matters, such as building a house, buying cattle, and so on, are still jointly decided by husband and wife.

6.4.7 Life story 7 Name: Ming = EGO Age: 55 Cohort: 1970s Other household members: a husband, two sons, one daughter-in-law, one daughter, and one granddaughter.

Household headship: de jure and de facto female-headed household Village: Dongkou

–  –  –

Figure 6.8: The genealogy of Ming Ming’s introduction I am from Sichuan province.

I finished middle school. My husband is sixty years old. He is a mine worker and only got two years of education. His health is not good and he retired in 1996. I have two sons and two daughters. One son and one daughter got married. My son-in-law is from the same village. My daughter-in-law is from Guangxi province. My daughter has two sons, and my son has one daughter. All my sons, daughters, son-in-law, and daughter-in-law have migrated.

I have to take care of my granddaughter and sometimes also take care of the son of my daughter, who is mainly taken care of by my daughter’s parents-in-law.

Formation stage I got married in 1972, when I was twenty years old. My aunt worked in the same coal mine as my husband and introduced him to me. My husband is an orphan.

His parents passed away when he was one year old. He was brought up by his oldest sister. He had five sisters and one brother. They were very poor when he was young. We had no house to live when we were married and temporarily had to stay in our cousin’s house. It was a simple, thatched house in poor condition. My husband worked in the factory and had a monthly salary of 20 yuan. In 1978, we spent three hundred yuan to get a piece of land from my uncle. We built a wooden house there in 1980. During the collective period, I could not diversify my livelihood activities; I only worked for the collective. We had no extra products to sell. I did not contribute very much to the collective’s agricultural production because I had to take care of the children myself. We mostly ate maize because there was not enough rice. Every day, I had to grind maize manually, which took a lot of time. It was difficult to buy goods, even if we had some money. It was so hard because my husband was working far away and I had no parents to help me.

I always took my children with me to the field and had to travel a lot to see my husband.


Chapter 6

Maturing stage Land allocation in our village took place in August 1980. My household got land for myself and my two daughters, but not for my husband, because he was a government employee. My sons were born after the land allocation, so they could not get land. Our land holding per capita is low in this village. I have only 0.9 mu of paddy fields (three parcels), 2.3 mu of dry land (six parcels), and 6.2 mu of forestland. All the land was allocated according to three classes in terms of quality.

Each household got three types of land. The land was divided into small pieces and all households ended up with scattered land. My oldest daughter did not ask for her land share, although she got married in the same village. The tradition here is that married women cannot claim land from their own parents. But the women in my natal hometown (niangjia) do claim land and a house from their parents.

Women are treated more equally in my hometown.

In 1983, I had enough food to feed the children but I worked harder than in the collective period. I had to do all the agricultural activities, except the ploughing. Cutting grass for feeding our cattle was a time-consuming task, but I had to do it every day. Nobody helped me and the children only helped with cooking and looking after the cattle after school time.

Matured stage I built the current house in 1994. It is a two-storeyed house. During that time, my household was comparatively rich, because my husband had a salary and I had enough food for the household. The other villagers had no other income sources but agriculture.

In 1999, my oldest daughter got married. In 2004, my son got married as well. My son met his wife in the factory in the town to which he migrated. My daughter-in-law came back to stay with us in 2006, when she delivered her baby. I had to take care of the baby, even though I did not like it very much. Now, I have to look after the child because she has migrated again. In the past, daughters-in-law did the agricultural work, while the parents-in-law would take care of the children and have more say in their upbringing. Now, things are changing: mothers-in-law take care of agricultural activities and daughters-in-law take care of the children. I cannot tell them to have a second child, even if I would like to. But in the past, the parents-in-law had more power to ask their children to deliver more babies.

In 2007, my son wanted to run his own decoration business in the town he has migrated to, using his experience in the factory. He asked me to go to the Municipal Credit Cooperative to borrow 20000 yuan for him. In 2007, my daughter also wanted to borrow 20000 yuan and asked me for help as well. It is easier for me to borrow money because my husband has a salary, so the Cooperative does not worry about us paying back. My son has not returned the loan yet; he only paid back the interest because his business does not yet make a profit. It is not easy to run a business, even a small one. But he wanted to try and I helped him. Although the bank interest is really high, we have to pay it because we have no other sources to borrow such a big amount of money. My household is not very rich, because many migrants earn more than my husband does.

105Women’s life stories and social change

From the beginning of the HRS until now, our village has a tradition of exchanging labour. We do not ask for money, as the neighbouring villages already do. We really have a shortage of labour nowadays, and help each other in turn with transplanting and harvesting. Both men and women join the labour exchange model, but only if they are able to do their part. My household is badly short of labour and we could use help, but we cannot give any labour in return, since I am the only one in our household who can work in the field. I feel ashamed to always have to ask help from others. Sometimes, I hire people from other villages to work for me. My husband cannot do any agricultural work except looking after the cattle, cooking, and collecting fuel wood, because his health is very bad. I have not cultivated the paddy field for several years and gave it to my daughter for cultivation. She gave me half of the harvest. But this year, my daughter has migrated and I have given it to other villagers to cultivate. They will give me some products, but we do not talk about the details. It is not good to let paddy fields lie fallow. Others will gossip and say that I am lazy. But I really have no labour and can only cultivate the upland field. I have maize, soybean, sunflower, bean, pumpkin, potato, and chilli. But I do not cultivate watermelon and tobacco because of the labour shortage. I also have ten chickens, three pigs, and two buffaloes. I still value land, although my husband and I cannot work on it ourselves and mostly hire others to do so. We were unable to migrate and have to harvest maize to raise pigs and chickens. We also need to grow some crops for our own consumption. We never cultivated vegetables to sell, because the market is too far away; we only grow vegetables for our own use. I have nothing to sell on the market and only buy goods. I am very relaxed compared to other women in the village, because I can take a rest. Although not high, our income is high enough.

6.4.8 Life story 8 Name: Ying = EGO Age: 54 Cohort: 1970s Other household members: a husband, three sons, three daughters-in-law, one daughter, and five grandchildren.

Household headship: de jure and de facto female-headed household.

Village: Dongkou

–  –  –

Figure 6.9: The genealogy of Ying Ying’s introduction With 14 members, I have the biggest household in the village.

Three sons already got married and nobody wants to establish his own independent house. All the children are considerate and they never quarrel. My second son is at home and the other three children migrated. Together with my daughter-in-law, four of our household members are away.

Formation stage In 1972, I got married when I was eighteen years old. My husband came from a nearby village. My father died in 1970, when I was sixteen, and two younger sisters were just six and two. I have no surviving brothers, although my mother delivered two sons, because the medical situation was not very good at that time. When my father died, we were in great need of labour, which is why my mother arranged my marriage. My husband was required to live with us to solve our labour shortage problems. It was not normal for a husband to live in his wife’s house (shangmenlvxu), and it normally only happens in households without men. My husband just graduated from middle school and was seventeen years old. He knew little about agricultural production. He was unable to get more than six work points during the first two years. But he worked very hard and got the maximum of ten points two years later.

I delivered my first child, a son, in 1974, when I was twenty years old.

Unfortunately, my mother died the next year and I had a hard time, because my son was only one and my two sisters were only nine and five years old. We did not have enough food to feed ourselves during the collective era. When my mother died in 1975, we did not have any grain at home. My uncle went to the government to borrow 30 kg of maize and invited the villagers to help with the funeral. In 1976,

107Women’s life stories and social change

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