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Welcome to the 2010 Guerilla Girls Blog! We are the Guerilla Girls! We are 13 Hao Ran Foundation volunteers (all females!) and we will soon get to deploy our wings in different countries of the world to work with various non-governmental organizations and social movements as a way to reinforce social justice and solidarity. We wish to open communication and share our experience with the rest of the world, because we strongly believe that ‘ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE!’ Read More

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2011年8月25日 星期四

“Democratic education” and the community empowerment through Zigen’s work in China, can it be real? (Part3)




By Huei-Jen Lin

The idea of democratic education and the reality of what Zigen’s work on community-empowered

The community/social work in China in essence is more or less like “social service” which goes along the governmental/party system, and this idea also just has been imported from the west in the last two decades. In reality, wherever in cities like committee for community service (居委會), the service for the migrants (流動人口服務站), or in rural areas like committee for village service(村委會), women union (婦聯), as an autonomous organization, their services actually are much closed to the “conduct” way — from the top to down, they follow the superior’s mandate which usually requests information about demographics, governmental propaganda, and implementation of central or local governmental policies. Several local NGOs like Zigen or others go another way round: rather focus on the disadvantaged groups or communities by means of relief given, resource service, community-empowered or protest for the right. (維權)

According to the different style of project coordinators, different areas (political power structure, cultural habits…) and the problem groups they face, those projects that Zigen design have been operated in various way. However, from my observation, “community-empowered” are the main core that Zigen is trying to adjust the strategies of their organization themselves to be, and trying to have practice. From the method of relief, resource given in early time to nowadays that they think that village/community-empowered could be much closer to the aim of Zigen: human centered; development of sustainability.

From aspect of community-empowered, different situations have been displayed on Zigen’s migrant workers’ community center of Beijing, and on the projects of village-school building in the rural areas. However, to contribute to the ideal of community-empowered, education is the common means which Zigen often use and with the Chinese educators’ thought supported. [1] They believe that all disadvantages in communities who can be empowered must be channeled through the education.

In the migrant workers’ community center of Beijing, the director Mrs. Yu is trying to establish a platform that promotes the better understanding and the healthier dialogue between the migrants and their surrounding society. The Zigen workers have designed several learning programs which connect thecollege students/social volunteers with the targeted groups: migrant workers, migrant children, and ant tribe [2].

1. After school program: (1) A college league who had cooperated with Zigen to teach review classes for the migrant children (about third, fourth grade) in the center on the weekend. (2) One-to-one learning: some students of this league regularly go to some students’ home for classes reviewing, and interview. (3) Zigen workers teach a class in migrant school to give advises for 5 and 6 graders who are nearly to enter the society.






2. Activity program: the center has been built as a learning environment which is set books, films, and chess. Those related activities, information of law and health are usually taught by Zigen workers or the college league in every evening for the migrant workers.

3. Study meeting program: the Zigen workers organize a meeting to read and discuss together and open for the people around the community, mostly are the ant tribe. Most of time, they were studying the thought of Mao Zedong, about his essays on education and philosophies. In discussions, a kind of socialist values and lifestyles is attempted to deliver out: any group who becomes disadvantaged is not destined to be, but is oppressed by the unequal social structure (the capital class) and relatively lacks the social capitals. Any worker is not destined to be only a worker, but is a human. Therefore the migrants shouldn’t always be depicted as victims. They should understand what problem they situate and why it is, and therefore they can fight for their right and know how to live in this society.

In total, Zigen here try to create a space that let the society realizes the migrants and respects to them. Meanwhile, the migrants should be empowered by their participation within this platform and get to know themselves even as the disadvantaged group are deserved to be respected and to be given the right as the normal habitats. The performance and the idea of this platform are similar to some organizations’ work based the idea of democratic education: eve

ryone should be equal; has the rights to learn, to teach, and to participate in the public affairs and the decision making. However, what I feel the difference is that, in this case the so-called “equal” is rather addressed to the class struggle—the right for the disadvantaged group should be equal to the normal people. That means, this disadvantaged group is perceived as a group, so the idea of the right or freedom something is for the group not individual. Probably it’s because that the Zigen inherits the Mao’s thought and migrants here are more implicated to the working class (most of migrants are workers). The other reason may be the Chinese cultural habits—collectivism, so when talking people’s right, the benefit of a group will be at premise.

In villages, Zigen is trying to promote a big project called village-school building together. They try to give the support for the basic need on both sides( village and school), and then above this base they try to build a community where the villagers can care and participate in the school affairs and the resource of education can be used broadly on the villagers. Zigen workers in village have tried to organize some groups for some disadvantaged people like women and the elders, but also for the peasants their economic need. The idea behind this action is to empower people for participating in the groups’ things by means of the people organized as several groups. Then the villagers can really discuss the public affairs of village and have the right to participate in the governance and make decision. For the education part, the village should a big school that a learning environment can offer villagers at different ages to learn when they need. This is the high level ideal of this project. Till now it’s been moved on slowly: some villages stay at very basic level, but a few are going to step into have the organization for adult education.

Again, it shows the culture of collectivism. The Zigen workers perceive women, the elders and the left children are disadvantaged groups. They try to organize them as the women association, the association for the elders…, and then through holding activities or training to empower them. The villagers are not perceived as individuals, so they can organize the groups in terms of their personal hobby. Another reality in village is that the villagers couldn’t really feel free to participate in the public affairs, due to the existing power structure of village, relating to the authority of communist party members.

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