Daping Reading: A Gender-responsive Community in Rural Area in Taiwan

In March 2019, a reading community called Daping Reading was formed by high school students in Pingtung, a city in the south of Taiwan. A few months later in August of the same year, the students published four articles regarding certain events that took place in Pingtung. Many of the community members said they felt inspired and empowered by the interviewees in the articles and for doing something they never thought they could.

As the co-founders of Daping Reading, Tommy, Hugh, Sharon and I founded this community with a simple idea.

“Pingtung deserves more attention than it has now”.

For a long time now, Taiwanese people have had an image of Pingtung that is synonymous with social problems due to its high ratio of older people and people living under the poverty line, to name a few.

To a certain extent, it is true that Pingtung is a relatively underdeveloped area of Taiwan. The gap between Pingtung and Taipei, the capital city, is indeed hard to bridge. Furthermore, it is unfortunate that many younger people from Pingtung are eager to leave in search for better education or job opportunities elsewhere. Even for the four of us from Pingtung currently studying at National Taiwan University in Taipei, we often find ourselves seeing things from a “Taipei” perspective.

As a result, we decided to return to our hometown and organize a group of local students to dig more deeply into the so-called social problems of Pingtung. We believe that only by tackling these problems can Pingtung achieve recognition, gain a sense of identity, and overcome negative stereotypes. Despite the 360 kilometers we had to travel between Taipei and Pingtung, we kept in regular face-to-face contact with community members and high school students once every three weeks to create a close sense of community.

For six months from March to August in 2019, the first phase of Daping Reading attracted some thirty high school students to join us. In the beginning, we thought it was simply about spreading knowledge and reshaping perspectives. However, we discovered intriguing gender issues to emerge in this project.

Girls outnumber boys three to one

At the very beginning, we noticed that three times more girls than boys signed up for this project. As an unintended result, this made Daping Reading a gender responsive community. For example, during the group discussion we were able to learn from the experiences of both boys and girls. This also helped construct an environment in which young girls felt safe to express their opinions.

Though we did not originally have “gender-friendly” as a set goal for the environment, this outcome made us realize the importance of having a more inclusive environment, which is beneficial to not just girls, but also the entire community.

Both boys and girls care about gender issues, particularly LGBT issues

Two of the articles we wrote were about the LGBT community. One was about gay teens and their experiences at school, while the other was about an indigenous woman struggling to reconcile her identity as both a lesbian and a Catholic. With the three decades of progress made by the LGBT movement in Taiwan and the legalization of same-sex marriage last year, a positive impact on the mindset of our young generation has most certainly been generated.

The other two articles were mainly discussing disease and familial relations through a gendered analysis. One was about how a 17-year-old girl with cerebral palsy manages her daily life at school and home. The other consisted of an interview with a father, the main caregiver of his autistic son, that provided a spotlight into their family dynamics.

In this issue of LEAP: Voices of Youth, we invite you to check out two of these articles, “Adju Culture in High Schools: A Strong Network That Saved Young LGBT People”, and “A Road to Life: How Girl with Cerebral Palsy Strives to School”, and help support our efforts in Pingtung.

Now the Daping Reading community is in its second year. Its journey is continuing with a gender-responsive perspective to tell stories from our dearest home of Pingtung.

Other articles in this issue

A Safe Harbor for Gay Teens: “Adju” Networks in High Schools in Southern Taiwan

Gay teens are able to speak out under supports of peer community, especially Adju network in high schools in southern Taiwan, providing them an inclusive environment from home repression.

The Ordinary Schooling Path of a Girl with Cerebral Palsy

Fully supported from school and family, a girl with cerebral palsy make her own way out of the definition and “destiny” of her disability through earnest studying and empowerment.

Author: Yi Lien

Co-founder of Daping Reading Community. Employee of Foundation for Women’s Rights Promotion and Development in Taiwan.

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LEAP − Voices of Youth

LEAP − Voices of Youth

LEAP: Voices of Youth is a quality platform for English readers to learn about gender issues in Taiwan