China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan was designated a UNESCO Special Envoy for the Promotion of Education for Girls and Women as President Xi Jinping visited the organization’s headquarters in Paris last night during the power couple’s three-day tour of France.
Peng accompanied Xi and a Chinese delegation to visit the organization yesterday, making it the first visit by a Chinese president to the UNESCO building—although China became a UNESCO Member State in 1946.
The pair arrived in France on Tuesday for a visit to mark the country’s 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties with China. During the trip, Peng, already a World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador for Tuberculosis and HIV/Aids, made a visit to a children’s hospital in Paris, where she handed out stuffed panda toys to patients in the asthma ward.
Peng was given the role for “her commitment to empowering girls and women through quality education, her outstanding contribution to fighting inequalities in education, her devoted service to human development and creativity, and her dedication to the ideals and aims of the organization,” UNESCO stated in a news release.
“Right now, I am thinking of my father, who was the principal of a night school in a rural area, and with him, the mothers who began writing their first words and then teaching them to their children. In doing so, they were making basic education a possibility,” said Peng.
“A child’s first teacher is its mother,” added Peng. “Making sure that mothers are educated means we can lift more people out of poverty and build a more inclusive and sustainable society.”
SCMP reports that a 2010 study by the All-China Women’s Federation showed that rural women in the country attended school 2.2 years less than their urban counterparts and that 36.8 percent of girls, as compared to 27.9 percent of boys, are forced by their parents to cut their education short.