Thursday, November 26, 2015

This Lady From Hong Kong Is Empowering Migrant Women In China In A Big Way

Her name is Caroline Watson. She is the founder of Hua Dan. Hua Dan is a very popular and China's first social enterprise. This is probably one of the most innovative solutions to empower migrant women in China and has been quite successful since its inception in 2004. The initiative is to use the theatre for inspiring and motivating people to enhance capabilities to the fullest. Hua Dan is a drive that inspires people to drive their own lives with full energy, in an innovative style and enabling their confidence to the highest level so as to benefit their communities. The great philosophy behind this drive is to get involved with the people, share the love with them, learn from them what they know and that enable them to start with what they learn and are passionate about. Gradually when they get enabled to lead their own life, appreciate them for what they did and let them acclaim for what they did.

The board of directors includes some prominent personalities like Jonathan Palley, and Ding Li, Amethyst (Amy) Wytiu. Caroline Watson was born and brought in Hong Kong. She studied theatre at the university level. Gradually she realised that theatre has a great potential. It lets you think in a different perspective and creates a world of its own around you. the inspiration thus arising out of this acts as  a catalyst in becoming a change enabler. After she obtained her degree from Lancaster University she discovered this hidden potential in theatre artists while minutely observing them. She learnt that the theatre practitioners' passion towards this art acts as a driving force in transforming society. After her graduation, she went to China to apply her wisdom and started experimenting with it to evolve various techniques.

It was during 2003 when Caroline started exploring theatre in generating energies to imbibe in the young migrant women so that they are empowered to cope up with their challenges and create opportunities out of it. All this started while she started living with a migrant woman in Beijing. There are around 300 million workers in Chinese cities who have migrated from various rural areas of the country in search of opportunities in factories. There was ample scope for them in industries engaged in hospitality, manufacturing, construction and service sectors. All these migrants faced a lot of issues like finding a suitable shelter, educating children, discrimination, health, poverty.

Caroline started running workshops to empower the migrant women in exploring their individual threats. She drove them to use theatre as a powerful tool to build confidence in them so that they could become creative, and leaders in their own areas. She started allowing them to practice for their real life threats like harassment at workplace, marital problems, poverty hardships and exclusion by local society. The positive results that started coming out of it laid the foundation of Hua Dan. It was in 2004 that Hua Dan was launched formally. Since then more than 25,000 migrant women have been benefitted. The migrant women work on train-the-trainer model and gradually are able to organise theatre programmes in an independent manner. Hua Dan is also engaged in corporate training programmes in leadership, communication, creativity etc. using theatre methodology.

Caroline has lived for seven years in China fully dedicated to this mission, empowering migrant women, running workshops, finding suitable associates to work on the same cause. and recruiting new staff. Starting from Beijing, soon the drive became quite popular in the other cities of China. With extremely limited resources and budget, the whole team worked in an innovative style to deliver more with less.
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