On March 25, 2016, the International School Network visited the UN Women’s office to interview the director, Ms. Kayoko Fukushima and intern Ms. Saya Matsumoto. With its headquarter in New York City, UN Women was founded in 2010 as a part of the UN Development Group. The Japan Liaison Office for UN Women was founded very recently in April 2015, and is one of the four offices in the world.
Roles of UN Women (By Madoka)
Women’s rights are a vastly discussed topic in the world we live in today. It has been incorporated as #5 of the Sustainable Development Goals by the UN and has been a major focus of Prime Minister Abe’s policies in Japan. Ms. Fukushima explained to us that the role of the Japanese office is “to help endeavors of Japan” by strengthening cooperation between Japan and UN Women. The office supports inter-governmental bodies to build partnerships and help implement gender-equal standards. Ms. Fukushima mentioned that the office works on various significant activities for outreach and informing, especially in the educational field.
Ms. Fukushima introduced to us the five “Priority Areas” UN Women works towards. The first area is “Women’s leadership and political participation”. Each country has a main governmental diet, and on average only 22% are female. Ms. Fukushima noted that this is still far from equal, yet it has been an improvement since 20 years ago when the female participation was only 11%. In the Japanese House of Representatives, only 9% cooperate with member states, organizations, and NGOs to encourage and vote for women's rights. Ms. Fukushima mentioned that it is important that the government “implements” and “provides services” to promote gender equality standards.
The second Priority Area is “economic empowerment”, which is closely related to poverty eradication. Ms. Fukushima commented that one out of four men go to the workplace while only one out of two women do, and this statistic has not changed for 20 years. Additionally she mentioned that even if the women did work, their jobs are very often informal with low revenue and not enough protection. She explained that wages for men and women have almost a 70% difference.
Furthermore, female workers tend to have a large burden at home. Many women take on the role of completing housework and looking after both the elderly and the children of the household. Ms. Fukushima explained that UN Women encourages the regional sectors to enhance gender equality and empowerment of women namely by promoting the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs). The WEPs constitute of 7 principles that aim to promote gender equality in companies. For example, the UN Women encourages women’s inclusion and training opportunities, priority to female entrepreneurs, cooperation with local communities, and the measurement of progress to see “what is needed”.
“Ending violence against women” is the next Priority Area. Ms. Fukushima commented that violence has a negative consequence not only on the women involved but also on their surroundings. She mentioned that one out of three women have some experience with violence. Living in a safe household without inflicted violence is an important human right. UN Women is trying to prevent cases of violence by cooperation with various organizations for physical and mental care. Ms. Fukushima believes that the organization must continue to show “initiative” to “save cities” in this way.
Another Priority Area is “Humanitarian action”. Ms. Fukushima noted that women must be included in decision making, especially during times of crises. Women should be included in decision making for peace and security, as well in as the direction of the national budget, especially for gender-related purposes. UN Women is working not only towards protecting women in conflicts but also towards increasing women's participation in stages of crises, including crisis prevention and recovery. Ms. Fukushima explained to us that only one out of twenty peacekeeping negotiators are women. She therefore strongly believes that it is important to provide training for fostering female negotiators. “[This is an] important time for us,” she told us, “We need to transport into action.”
Raising Awareness (By Kurumi)
Through events and UN Women has been making efforts to raise awareness, especially of the violences done to women and girls in different parts of the world. To increase awareness in these violences, UN Women has proclaimed the 25th of each month to be Orange Day. As an example, Ms. Fukushima mentioned about the light-up event that took place in New York on November 25, 2015. Also, in Japan, the Bunkyō Civic Center was filled with orange illuminations at last year’s Orange Day.
Ms. Fukushima shared to us that because we live in this modern world of advanced technology and continuous innovations, we have been able to raise even more awareness than in previous times. “Awareness can be spread very easily and to a wide scale through the Internet and Social Media,” she commented. In recent years, UN Women had initiated a solidarity campaign for gender equality called “HeForShe”. Since British actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson launched the campaign on September 20, 2014, HeForShe has been gaining more attention. Cooperations have been made with stakeholders and promotional activities have been done, such as a promotion bus for HeForShe in London, United Kingdom and Paris, France.
Since UN Women is an advocate for human rights, as well as female rights, they have been making efforts to share practices of different family structures and cases. To do this, through increased cooperations with various countries, the entity is working to introduce cases where men, primarily, are in charge of housework and child rearing. As a result, Ms. Fukushima has stated that “much progress has been made”, yet more can be done. She mentioned that “children can raise awareness and interest in [these] issues” and only then can “females be confident and dream of what they want to be”.
Benefits of UN Women’s Activities (By Kurumi)
UN Women had been newly created in 2010, which seems new compared to other UN entities. Even so, since its formation, the entity has been working for the benefits of the various females possibly being discriminated in society. At the interview, Ms. Fukushima mentioned that one of many of the advantages of the UN Women’s activities is the increased opportunities for female workers. However, she also emphasized that the outcomes that result from the various activities do not only benefit women, but also every member of society. Most importantly, the messages that UN Women delivers is the respect for and advancement of human rights. In addition to this, more female participation in the workforce allows economic empowerment. With more female participation in say, politics, there is room for more views regarding critical issues and thus, society may benefit from different opinions and solutions to different problems.
Gender Equality in Japan (By Kurumi)
When asked about her personal views on gender equality in Japan, Ms. Fukushima was optimistic about it, as she implied that Japan is heading to a good path. “In Japan, there are very few women in organizations, but that is now increasing,” she stated. As an example, she explained to us the system of ‘Maternity Leave’ in Japan, especially the situation she encountered in previous years. Ms. Fukushima is a mother to two daughters. She mentioned that when her first daughter was born, childcare did not exist. However, by the time she gave birth to her second daughter, she was provided with a one-year break from work (ensuring the presence of her position when she returned). Currently, this ‘Maternity Leave’ has increased up to three years in Japan. Although Ms. Fukushima experienced difficulties when bearing a child while working full-time, since at times, she had to work overtime. Nonetheless, she did mention remarks about the gradual change of the situation and that now, male superiors have become more understanding. In the future, she wishes that these ‘understanding men’ encourage other men to also follow, and understand the essentiality of gender equality.
Indicators for Gender Equality (By Kurumi)
When asked how UN Women set standards and determine the level of gender equality, Ms. Fukushima mentioned that the entity “formulates indicators in concrete manners”. International indicators include Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Gender-related Development Index (GDI), and the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM). By establishing MDGs, UN Women aims to emphasize the significance of solving gender-related issues in pursuing certain goals (i.e. prevention of poverty could be worked through allowing women to access transportation and infrastructure to further increase economic activities). The GDI looks further into the components of the Human Development Index (HDI), such as life expectancy, education, and income. Although it may not be a definite indicator of the level of gender equality, these measures aid for researchers to get a better idea. GEM concerns with female involvement at the professional level (in the economic and political field). It deals with whether there is sufficient female representation in professional and management positions, as well as the amount of income females receive.
Despite the fact that these international indicators measures gender equality at a global level, the data may be insufficient when considering gender-related issues at a more intimate, local level. Therefore, regional indicators serve to provide these information. It is in fact true that UN Women “cooperate with local experts to fit localities”, as Ms. Fukushima mentioned. Regional indicator include the Africa Gender and Development Index (AGDI), which is divided into two categories: Gender Status Index (GSI) and the African Women’s Progress Scoreboard (AWPS). The ADGI is an indicator specific to African countries and provides an idea for African policymakers of the situation of gender equality when making human rights convention and agreements. The GSI within the ADGI indicates the social power (education and health), economic power (income, time use or employment, access to resources), and political power (Representation in key decision-making positions in the public sector and in the civil society) of the genders. The AWPS determines women’s rights and gender equality of each country at the regional and international level. There are four blocks of components to this indicator: women’s rights component, social component, economic component, and political component. Women’s rights component considers whether there is a reasonable level of gender equality in national constitutions and legislations, including rights in marriage and family relations. The social component assess the level of violence against women, the level of health (i.e. HIV/AIDS infections), and education (i.e. school dropouts by girls and level of education on women’s rights, as well as human rights). The economic component concerns with women’s care in the workforce under International Labour Organization (ILO) policies, including discrimination against female workers and maternity care . The political component determines whether there is an equitable ratio of men and women in decision-making positions within the political field. These are examples of indicators and there are many other factors that indicate the level of gender equality in various regions and countries.
Ms. Fukushima’s Passion (By Madoka)
Ms. Fukushima explained to us her passion about working as the director of UN Women in Japan. She explained that because the office is new, she wishes to make the best out of her time at the office to accomplish what she can and to make her contributions worthwhile for the “promising future” of UN Women. She explained to us, “Young people are important for gender equality from now on.” This is why she often visits schools or receives visits from students.
Ms. Fukushima worked at the Japanese foreign service before working in the United Nations. She was a program officer for 3 years, and then was sent to the UN. Ms. Fukushima commented that she had wanted to become a diplomat since she was a young age. In high school she advanced to the private sector as an assistant to male workers where she felt that there was “very limited [space] for women to work equally”. She then decided to get a qualification to pursue her interest in international affairs for her foreign English vocation.
He For She (by Madoka)
He For She is a campaign founded by the a Goodwill Ambassador of UN Women, Emma Watson. Ms. Matsumoto explained to us that He For She has no concrete mission. “It is about raising awareness”, she described, “Think about what you can do in schools [...and in] your own community.” Ms. Matsumoto also encourages students to think and start discussions about gender equality, including various fields such as gender differences on television or gender roles for children's’ toys.
Ms. Matsumoto explained to us that now all genders can sign up to this activity. She introduced to us that the campaign has collected 2574 signatures in Japan, and 71600 in the world. Twitter is often used to introduce UN Women’s activities to the younger generation. Ms. Matsumoto explained to us that celebrities such as Tom Hanks and Harry Styles have contributed in this way. There are also bus tours designed for university students that promote this event, as well as art festivals in New York.
Ms. Matsumoto’s Passion (By Madoka)
Ms. Matsumoto shared to us her dream, which is “world peace and education for the world”. She hopes that young people can be more aware and involved in such humanitarian issues in the world. She wishes that she can utilize her expertise and experiences in the United Nations to be “helpful to society”.
Madoka Nishina 12th Saint Maur International School
Kate Shimizu 12th Seisen International School
Kurumi Onishi 11th Saint Maur International School
Karen Nishina 6th Saint Maur International School