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Working Together For
Women's Empowerment.

Updated: Mar 11


*English follows Japanese*


WE Int.では #SheInspires と題して、団体メンバーの紹介をしています。女性同士支え合い、たたえ合うこと。これもフェミニスト団体であるWE Int.の大事な役目と考えているからです。今回紹介するのは、日本人メンバーの藤井葉子さん。彼女はなんでジェンダーに興味を持ったのか、日本におけるジェンダー課題についてどう考えているか、ぜひお読みください!


WE Int., committed to lifting up women and shedding light on their work, introduces its members as part of the series #SheInspires. In this article, we introduce to you Yoko Fujii, a 2nd year student at Graduate School of Public Policy, the University of Tokyo. Born and raised in Japan, Yoko has been realizing many gender issues in japan and she wants to improve gender equality by strengthening international cooperation through her work so that each country can overcome common gender issues together.

Read her interview article bellow to get to know more about Yoko and her views on gender issues in Japan!



1.葉子さんご自身についてお話して頂けますか?


 こんにちは。藤井葉子(ふじい・ようこ)と申します。私は日本で生まれ育ち、今は東京大学公共政策大学院の修士2年生です。学問分野では、国際関係や開発政策、ジェンダーに興味があります。今年3月に卒業し、4月からは外交官として勤務します。また私はWE Int.のメンバーの一人であり、Coffee Conversationをはじめとしたイベントに参加して、他のメンバーとの交流を楽しんでいます。趣味は、J-popやK-popをはじめとした音楽を聴くことや、国内・海外旅行をすることです。



2.どうしてジェンダーに興味を持つようになりましたか?ジェンダー課題の中で特に興味がある問題はなんですか?


 私が興味のあることの一つは、「男性らしさや女性らしさにこだわらずに、自分らしく生きることのできる社会を作りたい」という点です。私がこのジェンダーの問題にこだわるようになったのは、自分のバックグラウンドの影響が大きいのだと思っています。私は大学に入るまで、男女比という意味ではかなり異質な空間で育ってきました。幼稚園は園児の9割以上は女の子で、小学校から高校までの12年間は女子校、習い事はクラシックバレエだけなのでここでも女の子ばかり、その他部活や活動で他校と接することはほぼなかったし、家庭

でも一人っ子です。そんな中で共学の大学への進学が決まりました。今まで保健体育の授業

で男女の差異ばかりに焦点を当てて教えられてきたし、「男子は女子とは違う生き物だと思った方がいい。考え方から行動から何から何まで違うから」と先生や先輩に聞いていたので、そんなにすごいものがあるのかと覚悟していました。しかし、実際入ってみると正直なんの違いも感じませんでした。男女関係なくみんな同じようなことを考えているし悩んでいる。むしろ性差よりも、今までの経験やバックグラウンド、個性による個人差の方がずっと大きいなと痛感しました。もしなんらかの性差があるとしても、それは社会的なジェンダーの枠組みの中であとから作られたものがかなり多くを占めているのかなと思いました。だから、日常生活のなかで性差や性別をあまりに強調、そして意識しすぎることは私たちが思っているよりもナンセンスなことなのかもしれません。だから、他人を性別だけで判断してはいけないだけでなく、自分も自身の性別に囚われることなく自由に生きられるような社会になれば良いのにな、と考えるようになったのです。例えば、「女性だから化粧をしなくてはいけない」「女性だからヒールを履かなくてはいけない」という、日常的な社会的規範から見直していく必要があるかもしれません。


 また、大学院での学びは、私のジェンダーについての視野を大きく広げてくれました。授業で、インドやラテンアメリカ地域におけるジェンダーや、戦時中の性暴力に関して学ぶ機会があり、日本とは異なる歴史、宗教、文化を持つジェンダーについても知ることができ、日本とは異なる問題にも関心を向けていきたいと考えるようになりました。反対に、日本と全く異なるような国でも、根底にある女性への視線、そしてジェンダーへの認識は似通っている部分が多く、国際的に助け合って共通の問題を乗り越えていきたいと思うようになりました。





3.日本社会における女性の地位についてどう思いますか?


 私は24年間日本に住んでいますが、個人的にひどい差別やハラスメントの被害にあったことはありません。それは私が運よく恵まれた環境にいるからだと思います。家族は教育に非常に力を貸してくれただけでなく、職業選択やキャリアプランも自分の希望通りにさせてくれ、決して「女性らしさ」の強要や、女性であることを理由に制限をかけられることはありませんでした。また、同性・異性ともにジェンダーに理解のあるクラスメートや友人に恵まれ、何か悩んだ時も皆が手を差し伸べてくれました。それには本当に感謝しています。

 しかし、だからといって日本にジェンダーの問題がないかといえば、全くそうではないと思います。最も顕著な問題は、女性のリーダーが少ないことでしょう。大学の教授陣、国会、内閣、企業のCEOなどを見ても、組織や国のリーダーとして活躍できる場所において、他国と比較しても女性の数が非常に少ないです。また、「女性は美しく、家庭的であるべきだ」というステレオタイプやメッセージは、依然として残り続けています。近年はインターネットの発達により、個人が自由に自分らしさを発信できるようになった一方で、多くの女性が無責任なコメントによって容姿差別を受けたり、性被害について語れば公にバッシングを受けるようになってしまったように思います。よって日本においては、政策面のみならず、一人一人の行動や意識の改革もさらに必要になってくるのではないかと思います。




4.ジェンダー課題においてどんなことを成し遂げたいですか?


 まずは、自身が一人の女性として、自分らしく生き、自分らしいキャリアを歩み、リーダーシップを取ることで、他の女性に勇気を与えられる存在になりたいです。さらに、仕事を通じて国際的な連携を強め、各国が共通のジェンダー問題を一緒に乗り越えられるよう、できる限り努力していきたいです。また、社会に対して常に敏感でありたいし、問題があれば声を上げられる人になりたいです。私は「男性vs女性」の構図を作ることは、女性のエンパワメントにとってマイナスなことだと思っています。性別関係なく社会の歪みに向き合い、包括的な対話ができるように、常に人の声に耳を傾けられる人でありたいです。

 WE Int.は、個人が女性のエンパワメントに関して考えるだけでなく、積極的にイベントや対話の開催などの活動に移していて、とても勇気がある団体だと思います。その姿勢を見習い、今後の自らの生き方やキャリアにも生かしていきたいです。





1. Tell us about yourself


Hi! My name is Yoko Fujii and I am a 2nd year student at Graduate School of Public Policy, the University of Tokyo. Born and raised in Japan, I got my bachelor degree in the faculty of law, Keio University in 2019. My academic concentration is international relations in general, but I am also interested in development and gender studies. I also love traveling and listening to music. I am going to work as a diplomat after graduation in March. I am also a member of WEint and participate in Coffee Conversation and other events, through which I enjoy interacting with other members.



2. What is the background you grew up in?


Luckily, I have never experienced any severe harassment or discrimination during my 24-year-life in Japan. This is truly thanks to my surrounding environment. My parents have always been supportive for my education, and have never stopped me from doing what I want to do just because I am female.



3. What do you think about the gender issue in Japan?


However, this does not mean that Japan is free from gender related problems. The most serious problem, in my opinion, is the few number of female leaders in universities, companies, parliament and cabinet. There are still many stereotypes on gender such as “Women should be beautiful and be a perfect housewife.” Thanks to the Internet, while people can freely show to the world who they are, many victims of sexual violence are attacked by heartless comments and many girls on SNS have become the target of lookism. We have to tackle with these problems not only from policy perspective but also from our daily lives.



4. What would you like to achieve for improving gender equality?


In order to achieve gender equality, I want to be the kind of woman who can give courage to others to live in her own way, pursuing her own career and taking her own leadership. Furthermore, I would like to strengthen international cooperation through my work so that each country can overcome common gender issues together. Also, I want to be someone who can speak up towards social problems. Conflicts such as "Male vs. Female" would make a negative impact on women empowerment. I will always try to listen to other people's voices so that they can face the asymmetric structures in society regardless of gender and have a comprehensive dialogue. WE Int. is an inspiring organization that actively engages in activities in women's empowerment.I would like to emulate that attitude and make use of it in my future life and career.



#BeWomenpowered

#SheInspires




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Updated: Mar 15

How can something be experienced by half of the seven billion people in this world, and still be a taboo topic? Heck, such experiences should be perennially trending hashtags on Twitter. Somehow, though, when it comes to menstruation the best we get is misinformation and a blatant lack of education. In an attempt to break this stigma WomEnpowered International (WE Int.) is launching Period rediscovered.—a six-part discussion series to create a space where our members and their friends (men included!) can actually learn about menstruation. We will meet once every month from March to August 2021.



Our main motivation behind starting this series is to:

  1. Reclaim our education by acquiring an accurate understanding of menstruation

  2. Become enabled to make informed and empowered decisions about our body and reproductive health

  3. Explore the history and culture of the feminist struggle(s) related to menstruation

  4. Deconstruct the gender dynamics in promoting women’s health and destigmatizing menstruation

Session Schedule - tentative (sessions will generally happen in the third weekend every month)

#1 March 20: Understanding our Period (sign up: https://forms.gle/2eD1BVfzKtecfBsw8)

#2 April : Period products

#3 May : Contraceptives and their effect on the female body

#4 June : Habits, including nutrition/diet, and menstruation

#5 July : History of the period

#6 August : Cultural context around menstruation


The advisors to our Period rediscovered. series—Dr. Magali Matsumiya and Dr. Yosuke Matsumiya—have agreed to help ensure that we provide accurate and reliable information. They have also connected us with multiple professionals who can support the specialized sessions in this series. We are genuinely grateful to be able to work with and learn from such amazing mentors. Here is a little bit more about them:

Dr. Magali Matsumiya is currently a Physics teacher, working at St Clare’s college in the UK where she teaches the International Baccalaureate. Previously, she taught Physics and Biology at the British School in Tokyo and the Marlborough School in Oxfordshire. Magali has always loved science and the perspective it brings to daily life and activities. She studied Natural Sciences, specializing in Genetics at Cambridge University then completed a DPhil in Infection, Immunology, and Translational Medicine at Oxford University. Her thesis was completed at the Jenner Institute, focusing on the variability in human immune responses to vaccination. As a teacher, Magali enjoys combining her passions in science, research, and education to enthuse the next generation. In her spare time, Magali enjoys spending time with her family and playing ultimate frisbee.

Dr. Yosuke Matsumiya is a medical doctor specializing in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, currently working for LUCA Science (a Japanese biotechnology company) and co-ordinating research at the University of Oxford. He studied Medicine at the University of Cambridge and King’s College London. After qualifying as a doctor he has worked in hospitals in Oxford and the surrounding District Hospitals. He is currently the only Japanese member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and has also spent time doing volunteer work/research in Tanzania and Uganda. Yosuke was in Japan between 2017-2020 during which time he was appointed a full-time assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Tokyo, as well as lecturing at Keio University where he was awarded the Best Teacher Award in 2020 for covering topics that included gender equality, mental health, and female genital mutilation. He strives towards his 7E philosophy: Education, Equality, Environment, Ethics, Empathy, Efficiency, Entertainment.

Dr. Magali and Yosuke Matsumiya in front of Yasuda Hall, University of Tokyo campus

----- So, if you’ve been experiencing periods without really knowing what’s going on, or if you want to support some of the amazing women in your life, or you want to play ultimate frisbee with Magali, join the Period Rediscovered. series! See you there!


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Updated: Feb 19

February 12, 2021 - WomEnpowered international held our fourth biannual panel discussion: My body, My Choice, centred around the topic of reproductive rights. Reflecting on the latest developments in Poland and Japan, the event focused on the shifts in political standards and social perspectives regarding reproductive rights through the experiences of three expat women living in Japan. Our panellists Ola, Bonnie and Clara shed light on the political, legal and social landscape of reproductive rights through their personal involvement in the topic.


The conversation began with Ola’s introduction of the currently urgent


q




uestion for Poland: access to abortion. While she positioned the topic in a complex historical and cultural context, she highlighted, the issue is multifaceted: it is not just the right of abortion but indeed safe, accessible, not shameful abortion. Religion plays an important role in Poland




. It is used as a powerful tool for resisting legal abortion and in that way serves conservative politics


claiming to defend traditional values.



Although not related to religion, in Japan too, defending traditional values has a large influence on the continued resistance to allowing over-the-counter access to emergency contraception. The emergency contraceptive can be accessed in Japan after a doctor's prescription. Becoming an over-the-counter product, Bonnie revealed, would challenge the established gender order. Her research and work on the topic have shown her that it is often male-only panels making decisions guided by preconceived gender stereotypes, in some instances even doubting women’s ability to make appropriate decisions about taking the contraceptive. Moving the conversation forward would require some level of social acceptance which can be achieved through education about the need and use of the emergency pill as part of the wider topic of sexuality, sex education and safe sexual practices. Japanese NPOs have been taking an important role in raising voices and opening up a space for discussion. It is expected that this year the emergency contraceptive will be available over the counter. Clara connected both cultural contexts and their complexity by noting that it is still a global struggle to have policy truly translated into reality. She emphasized the power of women as agents of change, as educators and as allies by sharing solidarity. Especially in times of this global pandemic which has disproportionately affected women, it is crucial that safe spaces and health coverage for women are considered fundamental and are prioritised. For this, it is crucial to have women in decision-making positions, especially when the policy would affect women’s bodies and lives. Women should also have access to reliable information from a young age to be able to make informed decisions.



Key Insights from Panelists:

  • Culture and background matter

From family background to wider community norms, culture can determine how women are informed about their reproductive rights, how women perceive their own bodies, what women believe is shameful or right, what is legally and practically available. Different backgrounds can result in opposite dynamics. For example, although in the USA abortion has been stigmatized, over the counter emergency contraceptives are available. In Japan, there is less stigma around abortion but significant hurdles to allow easy access to the emergency contraceptive.

  • It is a web of issues, not an individual case

Our panelists stories showed that under the umbrella of reproductive rights, from contraceptives to abortion rights, there is a web of interrelated issues. For example, the lack of freedom of the press in Poland poses a significant obstacle to disseminating accurate information about reproductive rights and can misinterpret the motivation behind the protests against the abortion ban. The web of issues stretches to class, sexuality and other inequalities.

  • Personal autonomy - rewriting the internalized narratives

Shaming women for their sexual activity or choice combined with lack of sex education and stigmatization of topics such as menstruation and sexuality, contribute to women internalizing unhealthy narratives about their own bodies. It is important to question the element of taboo and shame that obscures our inner conversation and become aware of what guides our choices.


Calls to action:

  • Your voice matters. Advocate. Support women-led organization and self-organizing local networks. This is powerful. A bottom-up approach is important.

  • Your voice matters even if you are abroad. Amplify the voices of those who are fighting. Put pressure. Support international organizations.

  • Consider the topic from different perspectives: political, cultural but also health-care systems. Rethink your own values on bodily autonomy and access to health care services. How can health systems and delivery of such service be aligned with what different women need (in the complexity of their class, race, identity)?


We were pleased to see great interest in this event and hear illuminating comments from the audience. We hope you will continue to join us throughout our upcoming events! Watch for updates on our Facebook Page or website!





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