In honor of International Women’s month and the 7th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, we welcomed Megumi Ishimoto, Executive Director of NPO Women’s Eye, and Dr. Jackie F. Steele, a political scientist at the University of Tokyo, to share the stories and challenges of the amazing women change agents in post-disaster Tohoku.
Neither Megumi nor Jackie originally set out to explore and engage with women in post-disaster contexts. It was each of their personal experiences following the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake that spurred them to action and fostered their passion on this important issue. What began for Megumi as a one month disaster-recovery volunteering project evolved into her founding an NPO focused on female empowerment in post disaster contexts through grassroots activities and projects. Jackie’s experience as a new mother living in the affected area and having to relocate highlighted the importance of understanding disasters from a feminist lens.
Megumi and Jackie are both advocates of challenging conventional attitudes about the role of women, especially following the March 11 disaster. Despite the devastation, the events of March 11 provided an opportunity for change for the women of Tohoku.
Both speakers spoke about learning to recognize and seize opportunities as one of their first lessons. Megumi recounted how she got her NPO off the ground by first going to New York to seek international support. She revealed the reality and magnitude of the marginalization of the voices of Tohoku women, and how she took on the challenge of a new role, even hosting delegates in Tohoku. Her perspective is to say yes to opportunity—despite initial hesitation, you will always figure out a way to rise to the occasion.
Jackie also spoke about her experiences working with women in diverse, non-traditional roles in Tohoku. Following the March 11 disaster, these women were not concerned about ‘asking for permission’ to take on new roles, but in fact created their own local businesses and positions in order to help others and achieve their own goals and dreams.
Megumi also explained the importance for organizations to gain financial stability and effectively communication their mission to enact change. She accomplished this by knowing how to communicate to her audience. When first pitching her organization, she realized that some local organizations were opposed to the terminology of “Feminism.” However, she appropriated the language of Womenomics, and the language of the local government to sell her ideas. She realized that instead of clashing with the system head on, she and the women of Tohoku were able to usher in change and gender equality by using the language of the government to further their goals. Jackie also came to realize that the changemakers of Tohoku found innovative ways to leave their traditional spheres and create their own path by redefining models of “leadership” and “womanhood” in Japan.
Megumi and Jackie recounted how women in Tohoku are supporting other women, such as through social entrepreneurship and even organizing local festivals in their communities for women to exchange ideas, share their business and services, and connect as working women and working mothers.
Jackie also emphasized the importance of self-care in building resiliency for Tohoku women. Though traditional Japanese notions of femininity had been tied to self-sacrifice, women who take time for self-care and even have the ability to say ‘no,’ helps them remain resilient.
The meeting concluded with a moving poetry performance by Kaede Nagashima from Fukushima. She recited the poem, “The Spirited-Away Town,” (1994) by Jotaro Wakamatsu, illustrating the emotional, cultural, human, and social impact of the devastation caused by disasters. Her performance demonstrated the importance of art and philosophy as an outlet to coping as well as sharing the difficult stories of those affected by disaster.
Thank you to Jackie, Megumi, and Kaede for sharing their wonderful insights and to everyone who joined!
Upcoming Fall 2018 Community Service Events
With the changing of the leaves comes many opportunities to support various NGOs and their efforts. Take a look at the events below and reach out to the organizations through the contact information provided if you’re interested in lending a helping hand! The Big Draw Festival 2018 The world’s largest cross-cultural drawing festival, led by […]Published on 15th October 2018
Recap: WSC — Creating Your Story & Brand with the Help of Masterminding Groups
“A brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon For the 2018-2019 season, Women’s Startup Club focuses on helping you create YOUR story and brand, kicking off the season with Masterminding—Supporting Your Success. Thirty women from diverse career backgrounds, a wide variety of […]Published on 7th October 2018
October 2018 Sponsor Offers & Member News
Check out the latest offers and opportunities from our Sponsors and other FEW Community Events here! Our Sponsors are committed to bringing the best services and products to FEW members. Visit our Sponsors page to learn more about all of FEW’s Sponsors, who not only support FEW’s activities but also provide professional and personal services benefiting […]Published on 30th September 2018
September Monthly Meeting Recap – Rina Bovrisse
From Prada Epicenter to Court Battle…and How She Persists Rina Bovrisse, a former fashion industry leader who sued her employer – Prada Japan – for discrimination and sexual harassment in 2009 and, eventually, lost her fashion career due that suit, shared her inspiring journey at the FEW Monthly Meeting in September. Now running her own […]Published on 26th September 2018
July Monthly Meeting Recap – Ama Divers
Living at the pace of the ocean In July, FEW welcomed professor Anne McDonald from Sophia University to share the stories of Ama divers, female free divers of Japan, during the Monthly Meeting. McDonald has been researching the Ama communities by interviewing the members and taking part in their daily life – even diving into […]Published on 26th September 2018
CANCELLED - Earthquake Preparedness Workshop with WaNavi Japan
Disasters happen. WaNavi, with FEW, will help you prepare for them.
Rethinking Strengths with Professional Certified Coach Jennifer Shinkai
In this experiential workshop, participants will create a visual map of their strengths based upon the concept of “Strengths are what make me strong”.
Midweek Lunch Mixer
Take a break from work and join us for delicious food and great networking at our monthly midweek lunch gathering at Cafe Park in Ebisu!
Note: The Lunch Mixer will take place on a Wednesday!