On April 11th, 2018, the International School Network visited United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to interview Ms. Mariko Sato, the director of the Tokyo Office.
Ms. Mariko Sato stated that she was always fighting for her what she believed in and was most passionate about education. After overcoming her fears of foreigners from attending an American high school, she started her job as an interpreter. Although she hoped to continue her education in the US after high school, her father did not support her financially because he believed that girls did not deserve higher education. Therefore, Ms. Sato applied for the Rotary Foundation Scholarship in which she used to go to the US to obtain a BA in sociology.
However, the scholarship was not enough for her to stay until she was able to graduate. Upon returning to japan, she worked as a mayor to save enough money for her to finish her studies. Simultaneously, she found her true passions of wanting to do something to help women and girls from experiencing sexual harassment daily at her workplace. Ms. Sato had also realized that it was not her father’s fault for having such traditional beliefs of not believing in education for girls. It was actually society that caused his beliefs and she was finally able to forgive her father. Later on, Ms. Sato worked at the trade center in New York where she noticed that women issues in India was more severe with their caste system and that other developing countries shared the same issues. To broaden her knowledge in this area of study, she attended Columbia University for graduate school and obtained an MBA in international affairs. After obtaining her degree, she returned to Japan to work at the UN Habitat in Fukuoka’s regional office for the next 20 years. Moreover, she moved onto doing humanitarian work in Geneva then became the head of office in Bangkok. Currently, her job at the UNFPA is to work with the Japanese Cabinet Office to work on the issue of Japan’s aging society and the life cycle which is the main cause. She also works with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work on international issues.
Ms. Sato’s main focus as a director for this organization is to bring attention to child marriages and early childbirth in young girls in several developing countries.
" In certain regions, girls as young as ten are being pulled out of school and forced into marriage to give their much older husbands children by the time they are teenagers. The main issue with this cycle in addition to poverty is the high mortality rates of infants and maternal death, and therefore UNFPA is working to eliminate this culture.
Approximately 47,000 girls are forced into marriage every day, and the UNFPA fights for those who are helpless and without a voice. These young girls are denied of basic human rights and the UNFPA believes that implementing infrastructures for hospitals medical facilities could temporarily decrease the number of preventable deaths. "
Ms. Mariko is a strong advocate for basic human rights for young girls and wishes to give them opportunities to live their lives freely in pursuit of their own happiness.
UNFPA: “Delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled.” On July 15, 2015, the International School Network went to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) office in the United Nations University of Tokyo, Japan, to interview the director, Ms. Junko Sazaki.
UNFPA was created in 1969, in response to the rapid population growth of the world. Since the industrial revolution, the population has been growing exponentially alongside better life expectancy rates. Since its creation, UNFPA had been involved in population data funding, overseeing population development censuses and planning, and humanitarian issues. After the Cairo conference in 1994, UNFPA shifted directions towards working for women and couples’ rights.
Ms. Sazaki commented that “those who are not wealthy have a smaller voice in politics.” UNFPA is an organization that aims to be the voice of these people, to increase awareness and make a change. In the long term, the organization has the goal to decrease poverty in the world. Regarding short term goals, the organization is working towards increasing women rights for education (convincing husbands in different cultures to allow their wives and children to go to school), reproduction health, and responsible and educated childbirth and marriage.
Ms. Junko Sazaki stated that it is important for students to raise awareness of women’s rights through social media. “Indifference is the worst attitude”. She mentioned that it is always a good idea to visit developing countries and see with our own eyes how differently the people live. It is important to engage in different cultures by talking to the people in the area, including the immigrants. We must expose ourselves to different opportunities and volunteer to help. Ms. Sazaki says that donating to charity, reading articles, and sharing our thoughts will be the first step towards understanding our world. Being very fond of diversity, she aspires to open her eyes even more towards different cultures of the world.
Ms. Junko Sazaki aspires that Japanese people become more globalized. Japanese women should take challenges, and be more dedicated and aspired. Japan is constantly changing; we can see an apparent difference in women’s rights over the past 30 years. Ms. Sazaki hopes to dedicate her hard work to human development, communication, and support, especially for young people.
Japanese people should also use more of their opportunities in life and plan out their goals. Japanese schools often do not provide guidance to their students. Ms. Sazaki therefore says that it is important for all of us to expose ourselves so we can be surer about our life missions are fulfill our jobs. Her message to students is to read books and biographies, travel to many places (including developing countries), and meet and interact with many people.
Ms. Junko Sazaki started questioning gender issues since she was of a young age. She studied at a graduate school in the United States, majoring in international relations. She studied Spanish, political situations, population, demography, in her school years. Ms. Sazaki met and interacted with students from different parts of the world, and was able to realize the fascinating nature of different styles of thinking. She knew then that she wanted to work in an organization or facility that works towards the betterment of international development.