International Women's Day - 8 March 2007

Yesterday was women's day and I took part in an event at UNU here in Tokyo:

The number one thing I learn at these events is about how to and how not to organize panels. (i.e. why do people think a 10min talk means they get 20 min to talk about 5 different topics? why can't any one call time? why are participants allowed to use Q & A as "my time to present on my issue”?)

There were some valid points presented on the topic of focus gender based violence.
General comments on the status of women remind us of what the audience – mostly women (who can come to an event in the middle of the day?) – likely already knew. The issue of diversity could have been more developed and more specific. It would have been nice to addres women's status in Japan in an objective and concrete manner.

Doug Lummis presented some very interesting points about the role of rape in war - the history of war shows us that sexual violence has always been part of it. I agree with a point he left us all to chew on - so instead of talking about removing sexual violence from war, we need to focus on ending the violence of war itself.

Andy Horvart brought up the issue of the US call to the Japanese government to apologize to the sex slaves from World War II. This call is for reconciliation - not a condemnation of the contempory Japan or the government. The way this is being reported on in Japan and how the Abe administration is (not) dealing with it is just sad. Rather than seeing it as an opportunity to make good in the region, it is being used as an excuse to push right – again.

The main thing missing is what many feel the whole point of these “days” call to action and linking the day to the lives of the people there. I was very excited one presenter brought up what you can do but all she said was to get more info about her group – which does what?
I was happy that Andy brought up the sex slavery issue, as it was the only chance we all had to bring the Women’s Day into our lives in Japan.

I wanted to say – this day is a call to action – not a call to looking around and seeing how sad the situation is for women is in other countries. The question of why there are so few female politicians in Japan was handled like a rattled snake.

Okay – lets get down to it – everyone out there can do something:

Step one – think about it - what issue moves you?
DV? Sex ed? Health?
Date rape? Job discrimination?
Forced marriage? FGM?
Fistula? AIDS orphans?

Step two - decide you can do something – right in your own town, using the skills you already have:
Read stories to people drive someone to the hospital
Counseling translate some documents
Cook at a shelter help a person find a lawyer
Tell others about the problem teach your students about the issue
Teach someone another language write or call a politician to change policy
Give 1 hour a week to a person - just to talk
Help a person learn how to use a computer to get information
Organize a fundraising event

Step 3 - Find a group to work with - you do not need to create your own org – many people are doing work that needs your help!!!
Some examples:
HELP Asian Women's Center tel: 03-3368-8855
One by one
Equality now!
Global Fund for Women
Sisterhood Is Global Institute (SIGI)
31st December Women's Movement - Ghana
Third World Organization for Women in Science (TWOWS)
Women for Women Int'l

Development Alternatives for Women in the New Era (DAWN)
Network of Women in Development Europe (WIDE)
Feminist Majority
IMADR - see the link on the side


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