We were in China for ten days and, as you must have guessed, it is forbidden to organize a public event with political purpose, so no exploratory walk this time… Yet because we never give up, we have interviewed no less than 8 activists, all working and fighting for different causes, but with the same goal: making the cities better for women.
We spent our first six days in Kaifeng (located in the province of Henan), the biggest city of China governed by a female mayor.
Despite all our efforts to meet the mayor Mrs Hou HONG, it was impossible to get in touch with her. But Â we will make sure to send her our questions via mail, so we can learn more about her interesting career.
In Kaifeng we first interviewed Esther GUO YAN. She is a young and motivated woman who runs the only private Jewish museum in China. As the government does not officially recognizes Judaism as being a religion practised in China, she created her own private space to make sure the memories of her Jewish family stay alive. From her window, she showed us the vestiges of the ancient Synagogue, where the Jewish community once practiced their faith.
We did a little detour to visit the ancient quarters of Mrs Liu QINJGXION, an important cultural heritage site here in Kaifeng. It is dedicated to this modern woman, who before her time dedicated her life to improve the access of education and culture in the city.
Our second Kaifeng interview was with Mr HAN, head of international relations in Henan University. It was the occasion for us to ask him about the historical and cultural construction of public space in China, particularly with regards to a gender perspective. We were curious about the subject, as the day before interviewing Mr HAN, we noticed many women in Kaifengâ€™s streets dancing and exercising together until dawn. It was a really nice surprise for us, because it showed us how fully and freely women used public space. Such a different atmosphere than our last stop, in Japan. Women here are really spending time together, along with with men, talking, eating, working, singing opera, playing dominos, ping-pong, running shops and street food restaurantsâ€¦ not only to going from a point A to point B, like in many other cities. As a woman, Audrey really felt welcome in Kaifengâ€™s streets!
At night, we met with our friend and volunteer translator Feng to go back to meet with the â€œsquare dancingâ€ ladies, in one of the biggest squares in Kaifeng. This time Audrey really put the â€œactionâ€ in our research action, and danced with the group of ladies under the late heat for more than one hour. After the dance we chatted with the dancers to understand a little more about their practice and how the felt about it.
We then left Kaifeng to go to Beijing for three days, where we had the chance to do two great interviews.
The first one was an immersive interview in a karaoke bar. Thanks to JingJing we were able to meet TingTing, who is a sex worker and working hard to prevent HIV amongst her â€œsistersâ€. In China prostitution is illegal, therefore any work related to sex workers is very informal, precarious and only supported by local NGOs. JingJing is one of the strongest women weâ€™ve met so far, and we are looking forward to sharing her story and courage.
Our last interview was with not one, but four amazing young and activist feminists! It was the chance to talk about what it is like to be a feminist in China and what it involves. We also discussed LGBT rights and the differences between howÂ lesbian and gays are treated. One by one, we learned about their stories, how their family have prevented them from protesting, how their friends ended up in jail and how there are still here fighting for their right to gender equality.
Our next city will be Mumbai, where we will be organizing our exploratory walk with Safecity NGO’s !