Girls in South China’s Guangdong province will get a crash course on how to resist the sweet talk of “sugar daddies” when schools start teaching them about self-respect.
The pilot project is aimed at telling girls at middle and elementary schools how to avoid falling into the clutches of older, richer men and stand on their own two feet.
“The education will focus on self-esteem, self-confidence, self-reliance and self-improvement,” said Lei Yulan, vice-governor of Guangdong and director of the Working Committee on Children and Women of Guangdong province.
“We hope to get experience from this pilot program and then gradually roll it out across the province.”
She revealed the plan at a symposium on Monday where Miao Meixian, the former principal of Guangdong Female Technical Secondary School, criticized the phenomenon that has seen many female college students and graduates become mistresses or marry sugar daddies and become full-time housewives.
Miao said the young women were settling for such a life in part because of deficiencies and failures in the education of girls.
Lei said the draft Development Plan for Women and Children of Guangdong Province (2011-2020), which is under discussion, will tackle the problem.
Sociologists have welcomed the initiative, saying such a program will help.
According to a recent online poll conducted by China Youth Daily, nearly 60 percent of respondents had peers who hoped to marry or rely on rich and powerful men as a way to realize personal goals. Nearly half of the respondents were born after 1980.
“The essence of self-esteem and self-reliance is a precious traditional wealth. Although female education used to be only appropriate for adults, it is better to start it at school now for early prevention,” said Xia Xueluan, a sociology professor at Peking University.
However, some students argued that exposing children to such topics too soon could bring more risks than benefits.
“Mentioning such topics as marrying rich men or being a mistress may suggest ideas to young girls that they had not thought about,” said Shen Xiaoqing, an 18-year-old female student at Guangzhou Zhixin Middle School.
Some experts also said such a program is unlikely to dissuade people from marrying for money.
“Wanting to rely on rich men is a complicated social phenomenon caused by various factors and it is improper to attribute it to personal immorality,” said Li Xia, an anthropologist working in women’s studies and a senior editor at the Commercial Press.
Li said that if society does not provide less-well-off people with opportunities, it is natural that they will look at marriage as a shortcut.
Experts on youth problems suggested that the content and scale of the education should differ according to the age of the students.
“It makes no sense to preach moral values to a 6-year-old girl, while it is essential for female students who are about to graduate to be convinced of the importance of women’s development and self-respect,” said Zhang Wenjuan, deputy director of Beijing children’s legal aid and research center.