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A little known fact of life in China came to light when the diary of a 14-year-old peasant girl made it from a remote town in rural China made it to the bestseller lists in France. The book, which has now been published in 16 countries around the world, tells the story of a young girl who is desperate to stay in school, despite the problem of sky-high school fees, which her parents can not afford.


7 février 2004 6 07 /02 /février /2004 00:00
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Letter 21 - February 2004

The month of March promises to be rich in events...
MA YAN GOES TO PARIS. If all goes well Ma Yan will come to France to attend the Book Fair (Salon de Livre) in Paris from 19 to 24 March. China is this year’s guest of honour at the Salon. Ma Yan has been invited by the publisher of her diary, Ramsay. He Yanping, who transalted the diary and who has been a very active member of our initiative in Ningxia, will be travelling with her. This will be the first meeting of its kind ! Ma Yan’s journey to France is not easy to organise, and there is still some risk that the project may be cancelled at the last moment. But if everything is confirmed, then the members of the Association will be able to meet Ma Yan on Wednesday, 24 March, at 6 pm.
We will also be at Ramsay’s stand at the Book Fair on Tuesday 21 March, Monday 22 March (the professionals’ day), and on Wednesday 24 March (the children’s day). You are most welcome to pay us a visit there. We will try to arrange a programme for Ma Yan that reconciles the publisher’s demands with those of the Association - and also with giving her a chance to discover Paris ! And at the same time we must not unduly extend a journey which comes right in the middle of her school year. During her stay in France, Ma Yan will meet with students of the College of Villiers le Bel, former students of our friend Emmannuelle’s, who were among the first to show solidarity with Ma Yan helping her to return to High School.
Mid-March will see the coming out of a new book entitled Ma Yan and Her Sisters (published by Ramsay), which will narrate the history of Ma Yan herself, of Ma Shiping, her cousin who was forced to marry, and also of some other young girls whom we are helping in Ningxia , on the basis of the letters they have sent us, and of the encounters we have made there during our trips to Ningxia. It also contains a detailed account of the history of our Association. The Association will get half the profits from the copyright in this book.
The last event in March, for those of you who live in the South of France, is a conference on 31 March at Nîmes, organised jointly by the Children of Ningxia and the Centre for Information on the Rights of Women and the Rights of the Family, at the initiative of one of our supporters. You will receive an invitation shortly, and this could be a good opportunity to get to know some other members of the Association living in the same region.
Prior to this, this month we are also having two new editions of Ma Yan’s Diary coming out, in Spain and in Portugal.
CONTRIBUTIONS. In February, during her school holidays, Ma Yan and her mother came to Beijing for a second time, this time at the invitation of a real estate developer in the capital, Pan Shiyi, who had bought five thousand copies of the Diary to be distributed in the schools of Ningxia and of the neighbouring province of Gansu. Gansu is also a very poor province and moreover Pan Shiyi’s own home province. There was a big ceremony, reported on in the Chinese media, to mark the occasion. He Yanping and I also participated in a number of broadcast events dedicated to Ma Yan’s Diary in the province of Hebei, which will start being broadcast there from the beginning of March. Among the other initiatives taken within China to promote the Diary, a Gallery for contemporary Art in Beijing, China Arts & Seasons, which will launch an exhibition of Chinese women artists’ work on 6 March, has decided to have a special sale of art work on 10 April, the profit of which will go to the Association. The Gallery will be presenting the Diary in French and Chinese, as well as an introduction to the work of the Association, throughout their current exhibition. Again, in China, this is the first event of its kind for us.
Also on the subject of contributions in February, Bertrand Michaud, the Asian director of the company Hermès, sent us a very handsome giant cardboard facsimile cheque, the amount of which represented the profits made from last September’s special sales at the Beijing shop of Hermes, all of which have been dedicated to the Association. All the shop’s staff attended the ceremony marking this occasion. The sum we have received will allow us to set up a computer room at Yuwang High School ; if all goes well, as early as next September. Many thanks, finally, to the French and Chinese students at the National School of Telecommunications (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécoms of Paris, ENST) in Paris, who have started a project for - finally ! - setting up an internet website of the Association. It will be trilingual (French, English and Mandarin) and will contain both the written memory of the Association, and information for those who want to contribute to it.
On another note, the travel plans of the students of the Lycée Français of Hongkong, put on hold last year because of the SARS epidemic, is now back on the agenda. The students and their teachers will go to Yuwang at the end of May, but they have already started collecting funds for some concrete project of co-operation for the benefit of this disadvantaged region.
BURSARIES. As we decided last time we visited the village of Zhang Jia Shu in December, we have paid the tuition fees for about 200 children there to go to primary school. Including the other bursaries we have already given, this means we are now supporting over 250 children to go to school, ranging from students at primary school to students at Senior High School. Their return to school for the new term took place without any problems.
So that is this month’s news...the next step will be taken by Ma Yan herself when she discovers Paris, and finally gets a chance to meet those who have supported her, and are now participating in this initiative of solidarity with other children who did not have her luck. Hope to see you soon, if you are among those who can be part of the upcoming events in France -
With best wishes
Pierre Haski


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