A Chinese charity program called the Spring Bud Project, nominally dedicated to providing educational opportunities for poverty-stricken girls, apologized on Wednesday after boys were found participating in one of its fundraising activities.
The Spring Bud Project was established as a charity explicitly for girls in 1989 and claims to have given assistance to over 3 million girls since then.
The program came under fire this week when photos circulated on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, that showed boys at a school in the southwestern province of Sichuan apparently receiving Spring Bud assistance.
The China Children and Teenagers’ Fund, which administers the program, admitted on Wednesday that a little under half of the children who received aid in Sichuan were boys. The fund said there was money left over after all of the girls at the school were given assistance, so staffers decided to use the surplus for male students.
Fund managers added this was not an isolated decision, but rather part of a conscious effort to use the program to sponsor boys in “urgent” need even though the main focus of the project would continue to be girls. They said this decision was made in accordance with directives from the Chinese Communist Party to lift the entire Chinese population out of poverty by the end of 2020.
“In future, as we carry out the Spring Bud Project, we will always list girls as recipients of aid. If the situation should arise where boys are in need of aid, we will make this clear when we advertise for donations,” the fund said, responding to allegations that giving aid raised explicitly for a girls’ charity to boys constituted fraud.
Critics of the Spring Bud Project said it was wrong to give any of the funds raised to boys because girls in rural China face more severe challenges and are more urgently in need of special assistance for education. They also worried that donors might stop supporting the project if they knew their money was not earmarked for poor girls.
The United Nations estimates that roughly two-thirds of Chinese children who are not enrolled in school are girls, and over half of the girls enrolled in primary school fail to complete high school. Some of the Weibo users angry about the Spring Bud Project giving assistance to boys also criticized Chinese media for needling Japan over gender inequality without mentioning China’s ongoing problems with equal treatment for women.