A 12-year-old Chinese girl living with her grandparents in rural northwestern China had long, flowing hair reaching her hips. Her hair proved to be not only her “crowning glory” but an “asset” that she can sell to fulfill her dream of buying a phone to talk to her migrant worker-mother more often.
The girl by the name of He Jingling was terribly unhappy with the fact that she can only be with her mother once a year. He was also envious of her friend who owns a smartphone and can make video calls with his mother, who’s also working outside their remote place, as often as he wanted to. So the pre-teen girl decided to sell her hair for $48 to purchase a smartphone with a free video calls capacity, so she can talk and “see” her mother more often.
Her mother left their village in Shaanxi province to work elsewhere after divorcing the father, and could only afford a yearly visit, usually during each Lunar Year.
He said: “Mommy is far away. She doesn’t have much money to spend on phone calls, so we can’t speak too long on the phone.” She also liked what she saw her friend doing, taking photos with his mother and saving them on the phone. In contrast, the only photos she had of herself and her mother together were when she was a baby.
The girl's grandparents only earn a meager income by raising chickens and operating a medical herb farm on a few acres on a steep mountain slope.
Chinese President Xi Jinping may have vowed to eradicate rural poverty by 2020, but the sad reality remains that many people in rural China still have to leave their children in the care of grandparents to search for better work elsewhere.
A Unicef report published in October says that 68 million children have been “left behind” by parents working in other cities. Another 2013 study, by Beijing Normal University and China Development Research Foundation, found that about 40 million or 16.7 percent of children in China were living in “relative poverty.”