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Because They're Worth It

Life - Because They're Worth It

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Internationally, the definition for absolute poverty is living on an income of under $1 a day. But the Chinese government has a lower threshold: the definition for poverty in China is living on 66 cents a day. Out of a total Chinese population of 1.3 billion, there are 42 million Chinese who are poor.

This episode of Life looks at a scheme which is helping poor people break out of the cycle of poverty and ignorance -- by providing them with small loans, basic health information, education...and hope.

In Wang San Ping village, near the Chinese border with Burma, in the southwest of Yunnan province, Yu Gui Hua and her friend Hu Zang Hua have used their loans from the scheme to build plastic greenhouses to grow vegetables all year round. They've repaid the first loans, and have even more ambitious plans for the second loan they're going to take out: this time, Yu Gui Hua has her sights set on a guest house, a car park -- even a restaurant.

But the micro-credit scheme, funded by UNICEF in China, does more than help women on to the first, vital step of the economic ladder. It also helps them gain friends, basic knowledge on how to improve their health -- and, crucially, self-esteem. As 83-year-old Ji Ki Ren Di, a woman from the Bai Yi caste in Mei Gu, a clan-based slave society until 1956, sums her situation up: 'I was born a slave and was forced to live in a grass shed....Now we live in a solid house. I don't think that I can live much longer, but I have lived long enough to see my family free. Now every day is a little better...'