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Print Edition> Nation
UPDATED: September 28, 2010 NO. 40 OCTOBER 7, 2010
Guaranteed Seats for Women
Hainan Province has revised its villager committee election methods and procedures to ensure women's participation in local government

Wang Saixiao was happy about being reelected as the village head. For six years, Wang, 34, has served as the head of Baotang Village, Lin'gao County of south China's Hainan Province.

Commenting on her reelection, Wang said "the villagers trust me very much." In her village, three committee members manage and serve more than 2,000 villagers and migrants to the village.

A new round of village committee reshuffling was piloted in Hainan Province since June 1, according to China Women's News. Reelection has been completed in 68 villages. On July 16, the reshuffling was launched across the province.

"The pilot program shows there is a guarantee for at least one woman committee member in each village," said Huang Xiong, head of the Grassroots Governance and Community Construction Office for the Department of Civil Affairs in Hainan.

In the province, elections have been scheduled for 2,561 village committees and 456 resident committees this year. The elections are expected to wrap up by the end of this October.

Revised rules

The local authorities in Hainan attach great importance to women's participation in villagers' self-governance. In the Outline of the Development of Chinese Women (2001-10) and Hainan Women's Development Plan (2001-10), it has been clearly stipulated that women should account for a certain percentage in a village committee or residents' committee.

In March, the Hainan Provincial People's Congress Standing Committee revised the election methods of village committees in the province. The amended methods were ratified in a very short time.

"Previous election methods stated that there should be an adequate number of women in the village committee. However, this was not taken seriously in practice. So, the election methods were changed to mandate at least one woman in the village committee," said Huang.

The amended election methods said, "There should be at least one woman among the candidates for a village committee. If voters have not nominated any woman candidates, the village election committee should designate one female candidate, with approval from the town-level government."

Along with economic and social development, women have become a major force in economic construction. Laws should be amended to ensure women's participation in the democratic political system, said Huang.

Pursuant to the relevant provisions in the amended election methods, Hainan's Department of Civil Affairs also revamped the Election Procedures of Village Committees. The document has spelled out special procedures to ensure women's political rights in village committees.

The document says that if no woman is elected in the first round of an election, then the elected committee member with the fewest votes is replaced by the woman getting the most votes. If only one vacancy in the village committee is available, and more than one woman tie for most votes, then another round of ballots will be cast and the woman getting the most votes is elected.

The amended election methods added one circumstance for when a reelection should be held. It says that if the number of elected village committee members reaches three but is less than an adequate number, and someone is elected as the director and no woman is elected into the village committee, then a second round of elections must be held. The reelection does not need to be reported to the village meeting for approval, and it must guarantee one woman be elected onto the village committee.

Strong supporter

Hainan Women's Federation is a strong supporter for the above policies. Du Zhiqin, head of the organizing department of the federation, said the provincial women's federation has actively sought to participate in the leadership group overseeing village level elections. Wang Qiongzhu, head of the federation is a member of that leadership group. This ensures elections can be followed up and women can have a say.

In October 2009, Hainan Women's Federation studied the representation of women in village and resident committees. The research report was submitted to provincial leaders and relevant government departments such as the Department of Civil Affairs.

The federation has communicated with relevant provincial government departments such as the Legal Affairs Committee of the Hainan Provincial People's Congress and the Department of Civil Affairs of the province, making written suggestions on amending the election methods to facilitate women's participation in village committees.

Women members in village committees can better represent women and protect their rights, and can promote rural social harmony and development, said Du.

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