More than half the population in China lives in rural areas with living standards much lower than those in the cities. With little to no education, and very limited marketable skills, the status of women in rural areas is pitifully low. Many international and Chinese NGOs are working towards improving conditions for rural women. Many have started handicrafts projects to enable rural women to work towards some degree of economic independence. While many rural women have unusual embroidery skills, their finished products still lack innovation and flair. Design, if any, is dated, conventional and rarely takes into account market preference. Most NGOs/social enterprises cannot afford the necessary product designers and/or marketing resources nor do they have the proper retail space. As a result, poorly designed handicrafts are being purchased by fewer customers, and usually as trinkets instead of the piece of artwork that they can be. Most of these well meaning projects continue to struggle and the rural women in China are not significantly better off than before.
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