While most high-school girls may spend their time on school work, or hanging out with friends, some are already showing their concern for social issues and are taking action to make society a better place. A number of them shared their stories as they were honored by the Garden of Hope Foundation with the Formosan Girls’ Award.
“I’m only a high-school student, I have no power to change the world or create a utopia, but I hope to do what I can to help the disadvantaged to fight for their dignity and rights, as well as help friends and classmates to learn more about the reality of society,” said Hung Chia-sui (洪嘉穗), a high-school sophomore from Miaolu County’s Jhunan Township (竹南).
Having just turned 17, Hung has taken part in the strike of Hualon Corp employees as their employer declared bankruptcy, owing employees months of salaries and retirement pension.
She has been on rallies against land expropriation for a funeral park project in neighboring Houlong Township (後龍) and against forced expropriation of houses for an urban renewal project in Taipei’s Shilin District (士林).
Hung said she started participating in protests when, earlier this year, she passed by the Hualong factory in Miaoli’s Toufen Township (頭份) and saw a demonstration by the employees.
“I was curious, so I took a look, and when I found out what had happened, I felt obliged to help these people,” Hung said. “Jhunan and Toufen are twin cities, so I felt that what was happening in Toufen was something that could happen in my own backyard.”
As she participated, she met a group of young people and from these new friends, she learned about more issues, and consequently got involved in more social movements.
Hung said at first her parents and teachers were worried that her involvement in social movements may affect her school performance.
“I promised I would keep up with my school work and I kept my promise, so they were supportive,” Hung said.
Wang Li-ping (王麗萍), a sophomore at National Huwei Agricultural and Industrial High School in Yunlin County’s Huwei Township (虎尾), said that after she learned that the elementary school she attended, Jhengmin Elementary School, was to become a branch campus of Datun Elementary School last year, she began a campaign to save her school by leaving messages on the county government’s Web site.
“I wrote messages opposing the plan everyday and every morning I would check to see if the had been deleted,” Wang said. “If they were deleted, I would re-write the messages.”
Wang later learned that the county government has a further plan to give the school’s campus to Fei Tian Academy of the Arts, an institution affiliated to Falun Gong, while cutting down all the trees on the campus. Hence, further missions were added to her campaign — to save the campus and the old trees on the campus.
After a year, Wang’s campaign achieved some success — the school was eventually merged into Datun Elementary School, but the county government suspended the plan to cut down the trees.
Her mother said she fully supports her daughter.
“It’s a good opportunity for her to learn something she could never learn from school, and to accumulate experiences that would be useful throughout her life,” her mother said.