Deputies to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) walk to the Great Hall of the People for the opening meeting of the first session of the 13th NPC in Beijing, capital of China, March 5, 2018. (Xinhua/Yang Zongyou)
Ma Huijuan believes there are three reasons why she is a deputy to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) today.
First, the overall status of women in China is rising. Then, the national poverty relief project helped her move from an arid mountainous village in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to a richer place by the Yellow River. Finally, technology enabled her to write on her cellphone and publish her work online. [Special coverage]
A middle-school graduate in her 30s, Ma transformed her own life as a farmer into that of an author and a national lawmaker through writing on her phone for six years, telling the stories of Hui women like herself from northwest China.
With International Women's Day on Thursday, Ma is excited to be one of China's 742 female deputies to the 13th NPC and grateful to the new era which has given women more say in state policy.
Ma will present proposals on protecting traditional rural culture and folk art.
Becoming a deputy is an honor as well as an obligation. "The position gives us a chance to make changes and we should use this opportunity well. I keep myself up-to-date and I made my proposal after a thorough investigation," Ma said.
"I love literature and it has helped me change my life. I want to help more women in my township to change theirs," she said. "Besides becoming a wife and a mother, women should have their own dreams."
The female role is expected to rise in Chinese politics. The ongoing session of the 13th National People's Congress has the highest ever number of female deputies, 24.9 percent, up 1.5 percentage point from the previous congress.
NPC deputies are members of the highest organ of state power in China and are elected by secret ballot at people's congresses of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, held ahead of the NPC.
Among a number of high-profile female NPC deputies is astronaut Wang Yaping.
"After I came back from my space mission, I received letters from many children who said they wished to become astronauts as well. It made me feel proud and happy," she said.
Shen Jilan, 89, who served all previous 12 terms of the NPC, has secured her position as one of the world's most venerable political figures by becoming a deputy of the 13th NPC.
Volleyball player, Zhang Changning, 22, feels honored. "I will use the valuable experience to learn and fulfill my obligations," she said.
Women's participation in politics still faces many challenges but Chinese women's status has improved significantly over the last century.
"I feel lucky to live in this era," said Ma.