RUAN Meiyin, the director of the Meixiang garment factory in Yangzhong town, Ningde city, Fujian province, says she hopes to help more poor mothers to enjoy a better life.
Mothers who have no assets, no job, no knowledge or skills are welcome to work at her factory, says the 46-year-old entrepreneur.
Ruan attended a ceremony in Beijing in late March as one of 100 rural representatives who had made significant contributions to the country’s fight against poverty in 2018.
Each employee is given a sewing machine, which they use to make a section or an item of clothing. And ski suits, gym wear and work suits produced by these rural women are exported to Europe and the US.
“Most of them (the women) face serious financial difficulties. And they cannot go far away, or even leave home to work, because they have to take care of their children, the elderly, or sick family members,” says Ruan. “So we want to at least give them a stable income.”
In 2005 when the factory was founded, there were only six female workers and 10 machines. Now, Ruan’s factory has expanded and has several branches, covering a total area of 1,100 sqm, which provides employment for mothers from about 100 poor families in four villages, at a monthly salary of around 3,000 yuan (RM1,830) to 4,000 yuan.
Ruan says she understands the difficulty of those mothers, given her own experience.
“I hope more mothers like me (who find it difficult to balance work and family life) can have a flexible job,” she says, adding that employees can choose to work either from home or in a factory.
Ruan, who was born into a poor farming family, lived a hard life with her siblings.
She left home in 1994 to work at a garment factory in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province.
At the age of 32, she decided to quit her job and start her own business in her hometown, so she could take care of her sick mother and her young child.
By that time, Ruan and her husband had about 80,000 yuan which was not enough to open a factory.
Later, they received 30,000 yuan from the Happiness Project, a charity programme which was launched in 1995 to help mothers escape poverty by the China Population Welfare Foundation, a non-governmental organisation.
When Ruan set up her business, many of the workers didn’t even know how to measure clothes, so Ruan taught them one by one.
Once, when all the sizes were incorrect and the delivery time was approaching, Ruan found herself under pressure.
“I cried, but I sorted things out throughout the night,” says Ruan.
“I’m a person who cannot be beaten down by difficulties.”
Ruan says the most difficult time she faced was when she ran out of capital.
“For some reason, the client didn’t pay on time, but we needed to pay the workers’ salaries on time.”
Now, she produces clothing for companies in Taiwan, who sell the products overseas. Her monthly turnover is around 150,000 yuan.
In 2013, the factory became a “poor mothers’ entrepreneurship base”, working with the local government to provide workers with a salary, dividends, money at festivals and a year-end bonus.
Many workers have benefited from this.
Yu Erqin, 38, who worked at the factory for two years, paid 10,000 yuan to become a shareholder. Last year, she opened her own garment factory.
Huang Xihua, who lost her husband in a car accident and had a craniotomy, says she is grateful for Ruan’s help in the factory.
“Though I was not skilled, Ruan welcomed me. I’m happy I can learn and work here,” Huang says. — China Daily/ANN
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