Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Direct Talk with Sanjo’s Mayor about Equal Rights

At a meeting convened by the Sanjo Women’s Forum this morning, I had a chance to participate in a “direct talk” about equal rights issues with Sanjo Mayor Isato Kunisada at the Gender Equality Office in Sanjo City. Kunisada-san, who was once the youngest city mayor in Japan, is now in his late-30s and is planning to run once again in the upcoming city election.

Admirably, he is willing to talk with anybody about any agenda.

While I am not an active member of the women’s forum, I have been interested in gender-related issues for many years and am an equal rights activist. Certainly, then, if there is one thing that needs to be discussed by the citizens of our city, it is how to further improve the status and rights of women.

I often hear it said that many people in Japan, especially those in rural areas like Sanjo, have very traditional and conservative views regarding occupational and homemaking duties. In a nutshell, working women spend a lot more time than men on household chores, child care, shopping, elderly care, and so on.

After the enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law in 1986, the number of female workers increased, but even today, many more females work part-time or as temporary employees. Furthermore, few women hold supervisory roles, even in city hall.

Another area of concern is the field of education. For instance, in a field with one of the highest rates of full-time female employment in the country, you will find less than ten female principals for the one hundred senior high schools in Niigata Prefecture.

I believe government must lead the way on this issue. Unfortunately, our talk with the mayor did not lead to concrete proposals to enhance the status of women in our area, but we did agree to hold a follow-up meeting soon to deepen our discussion.