26 October 2015
By Megumi Ishimoto, Executive Director, Women’s eye, Japan
After a 9 hour flight from Narita, Japan, to New Delhi, I arrived in India last night. I was then picked up by a woman taxi driver from “Women on Wheels” programme, creating a job for women in where used to be a man dominated industry. That was an exciting start!
Today was the first day of the ASPBAE-Azad Foundation 4 day workshop on Gender, Education, Skills and Work. At the registration line up, everyone looked a bit nervous but they also seemed filled with a lot of expectation. I myself set 3 goals that I will bring back from the workshop. And I’ve already reached those three goals although more values will be added for the next 3 days for sure.
My goals and one example of what I’ve acquired today are –
- What are the tips, actual behaviours, things, that are being careful for successful grassroots activities/groups (25% of the participants were male for this WS to learn and discuss gender equality. In Japan usually the participants for gender related events are almost all women).
- What are the tips to make the workshop special as there are so many workshops but only few are meaningful ones (we spent 1 hour for Ice break to get to know each other by using 3 different ways so that I was able to know not just names but about their family, hobby, inspiration and etc. This made me feel much more relaxed and took barrier between other participants that lead the atmosphere of whole venue ready for deeper discussion.
- Create my own network in Asia (through the workshop, we are all getting real close).
The first speaker, Rebecca Gaddi, who teaches at University of Philippines, seemed a bit intimidating to me at first. She started the session by telling us “You are all feminist, right?” Then when she moved to other topic that were very gender issues she told the men “Let’s ask men here!” and started to ask questions. I was very shocked to see these and was thinking it is not possible in Japan!!!
During a break, I asked some guys as to how they felt. Mr. Khan from Bangladesh and Kiichi, a Japanese living in Bangladesh, answered my questions and said that they were OK and for Mr. Khan it was a good exercise to check his gender lens. And both of them told me that I should share my concerns with others.
So I directly talked to Rebecca and her Philippines group. We discussed how I felt uncomfortable with Rebecca’s approach with such direct communication. Rebecca understood the cultural situation in Japan and she actually gave me some tips and good ideas which may work in the Japanese context. She also explained how important it is not just to include men in gender-related sessions but to train them to be men champions and advocates. The Philippine group also promised me to share the gender sensitivity training basic for men to help me.
This reminded me that educating and empowering only women might be cause for more difficult situation unless include men who are key in the region.
How nice to have an international team to work on gender equality!
The workshop and also my very first time India are becoming an amazing experience!