【Report】“Disaster Reconstruction and Women’s Independence” an open lecture hosted by RIWAC in 2011.
On Saturday December 10th, 2011 RIWAC hosted an open lecture. The theme for the year was “Disaster Reconstruction and Women’s Independence.” During the lecture lively discussions were held on how it would be possible to offer support on employment and economic independence to women in the severely damaged disaster areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11th.
Ms. Yaeko Tabata, Director of the Morioka Women’s Center in IwatePrefecture and Vice President of Participation and Planning, Iwate delivered a report on current conditions facing women in Iwate and one of the prefecture’s trial reconstruction projects, the “Care Delivery” project. Those involved visit temporary housing areas in patrol cars, nicknamed the “Me-deru Car (cars of re-growth)“ and the project offers support services such as grocery deliveries and checks on the safety of the elderly; the system also provides work opportunities by employing local women to deliver the services. The project is currently being trialed in 3 areas, with plans for an expansion in services (ergo employment opportunities) in the future.
Ms. Masumi Minagawa, part-time university lecturer and research fellow of the Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo, spoke on the topic “Why do we need Women to participate in Disaster Prevention/Reconstruction? Activation of the Symposium of 6/11 on Gender Equality in Disaster/Reconstruction.” She presented the lucid argument that a woman’s point of view is indispensable in disaster prevention/reconstruction, and cited examples such as the Great Hanshin/Awaji earthquakes. She pointed out that “disasters do greater damage in weak places” and reconfirmed that it is important for those in a vulnerable position to give their ideas and make their demands on reconstruction.
Having listened to both speakers, Ms. Yoko Shoji, RikkyoUniversityGraduateSchool raised the two issues of “regional characteristics” and “the need for women’s participation” as points for discussion. Reconstruction is not just a matter of returning things to the status quo; it is an opportunity to create a new society. It was pointed out that, with this in mind, it was necessary to pay careful attention to the characteristics of the region, while also ensuring the active involvement of women.
The day was so successful that the venue was almost full and we had lively questions and ideas coming from the participants. When asked “what are your criteria for employment?” Ms. Tabata gave a very impressive answer, saying “I have people tell me their dreams.” Using “people who speak of having a dream” as a criteria for selecting a staff surely shows, of itself, a “wish” on the part of those selected to “want to continue this employment opportunity forwards to tomorrow.” Amongst the feedback we received in answer to a questionnaire on the lecture, one said “I felt there was hope in the practical use of “cars of re-growth” and that seems exactly what the open lecture turned out to be – full of hope for tomorrow.