In the near future, CDB will be hosting a new column dedicated to publishing stories submitted to GlobalMoms Initiative (GMI), a nonprofit organization which provides a platform to help moms achieve physical and mental wellbeing, as well as financial independence. The stories will be written by mothers from all walks of life and will hopefully give readers a better understanding of some of the issues faced by women living in China. To introduce the work of GMI, CDB recently interviewed its founder, Jane.
CDB: How would you describe yourself?
Jane: Well, that’s a little tricky to answer, but at heart I’m a mom and that’s really important to my identity. Some people might describe me as an activist or a feminist, but I would say I am more of a volunteer. Perhaps I commonly use this social identity of being a “volunteer” as I’m the founder of GMI and its chief volunteer, and we are a voluntary action network.
CDB: Can I ask about your background?
Jane: I was born and raised in Jiangxi Province and later attended Shanghai Fudan University where I majored in political science. I think my time at university influenced me quite heavily. I learnt all sorts of things about policy, participation – the ways in which people come together to debate and to assist others. During this time I began to think about my future career and felt that I might like to be an investigative reporter. I did not manage to work for a national newspaper as I dreamed to after graduation, but I think the idea of doing something for social justice was already planted back then. I later managed to get some experience in the nonprofit sector, including some time spent working for Save the Children. And prior to starting GMI I studied nonprofit management at the University of Hong Kong.
CDB: Why did you decide to start GMI?
Jane: I think it really goes back to about nine years ago when I gave birth to my son. I found it a very challenging time, particularly after relocating to Shenzhen for my husband’s job. The pressures of trying to balance everything while still having enough time for family life made me think about how we could support each other better. I’d also been shocked by a few suicides in our community; moms jumping off buildings, even some who were pregnant at the time. The kind of turbulence in my life and around me got me thinking, and I started reading up on various social issues. Eventually I reached out to a friend of mine in the United States, another mom who was working in a women’s foundation– and the idea just sprang naturally from our conversations. After about 10 months of planning and prototyping a presentation, we finally launched in September 2021.
CDB: Currently GMI has a number of different programs. What did you do initially?
Jane: Well I think our vision has basically remained the same, but we started out with our MomStory100 project. Using volunteers to find or interview moms, while also encouraging moms to write their own stories, we are able to let a range of women tell their stories. From that other programs have naturally evolved; we want to support moms, as well as entrepreneurs through our MomCEO100 Club which provides support to new women-owned businesses. We also have the MomDesigner100 program which helps moms trying to build their own brand. And we have initiatives like Jobs4Moms, a jobs board we run with a particular focus on flexible work — as even very experienced and capable women can be forced out of the workplace by the competing demands of needing to look after a family. Also, when it comes to moms trying to get investment to start a business, it can prove much harder, as many investors are reluctant to invest in a woman. They want a quick profit, and women are seen as more of a long-term bet. To increase our impact, GMI has a number of chapters across China and hopes to expand these overseas.
CDB: What has influenced your approach to GMI?
Jane: I was really influenced by Michael Sandel, a Harvard professor who keeps reminding people to think “what is the right thing to do”. Personally, I like to do things that sound impossible. So I think from that I decided to take on something that’s really challenging. For GMI, because there are few people doing this kind of work, we really need to keep doing what we’re doing.
CDB: How would you say barriers for women differ around the world?
Jane: I would say gender issues are universal and that is why we are able to operate as a global initiative. So when I talk to my European and North American friends or to people in southeast Asia, we sort of face similar difficulties and situations as either full-time or working moms. The big difficulties actually sound really, really similar. I also read books such as The Sociology of Housework by the British sociologist Ann Oakley and I find that things like that really resonate with me. Women are facing difficult issues in every country.
CDB: How is GMI currently funded?
Jane: So far the funding has come from me and my family but in the future our sources of finance will become more diverse. We will have a “10 percent giving” mechanism whereby any partner that uses our resources commits to donating 10 percent of any revenue generated from their cooperation with us. But it will be voluntary. We want partners to feel willing to do this rather than making it mandatory.
CDB: Currently, how many people are involved with running GMI and its programs?
Jane: We have around 110 people who’ve volunteered to help out, and out of them we have about 30 to 40 active participants. Some are very short term, they might just do a month, but we also have people who’ll do three months, six months. But out of the 30 to 40 active participants we have 20 individuals who are involved with the organization on a long term basis.
CDB: Have you formed any partnerships with other organizations?
Jane: Actually, we have. We’ve had a number of requests from foundations and we have some individuals working in partnerships with our Mom Designer 100 program. Through that we seek to promote sustainable design, gender inclusive design and social innovation.
CDB: What’s your vision for GMI’s future?
Jane: Well our mission is to close the gender gap for moms and everyone, but our vision is to co-create a big, evolving, dynamic, open and infinite ecosystem for moms to get any support they need. Once people get in our system, they can find the opportunities and resources they need to learn, and to grow – regardless of their background. So that’s the vision.