Interview with an international symposium panelist
Part 2: Voices of Female Experts
Project for bridging the development of relations between Iran and the international society
On May 9, 2016, the Sasakawa Middle East Islam Fund held an international symposium titled "Promoting Active Particilpation of Women, Peace and Sustainable Development" in the Iranian capital of Tehran in conjunction with the office of Iran's Vice President for Women and Family Affairs and the Institute for Political and International Studies. The symposium, which consisted of the keynote address and three sessions, involved experts from both Japan and Iran, who engaged in active discussions on building a society that makes use of women's power and embraces their contributions.
Part 1 featured an interview with Mr. Nobuhisa Degawa, an NHK Senior Commentator who attended the international symposium as a moderator. Part 2 includes interviews with three female experts from Japan, in the order of their presentations at the symposium.
Panelist for SESSION 1 "Empowerment of Women: Issues and Challenges." Presentation title "Empowerment of Women: Issues and Challenges"
Panelist for SESSION 2 "Role of Women in Peace." Presentation title "Role of Women in Building a peaceful society / From comparative perspective of the Iranian and Japanese societies"
Panelist for SESSION 3 "Role of Women in Medical Disaster Relief." Presentation title "Emergency Preparedness and Women / From the experience of medical disaster relief operations"
How women can make social participation while attending to family life
Sharing with Iranian audience
＜Profile＞Joined a French-capitalized company after spending years as a homemaker. Established The Good Bankers, Japan's first investment consultation firm specializing in SRI (Socially Responsible Investment) in 1998, and became its President. Developed and launched an 'eco fund,' which selects companies to invest in from an environmental perspective. Received Prime Minister's Commendations to Contributors for the Promotion of a Gender-Equal Society in 2005.
The symposium in May focused on very good themes and was administrated efficiently. I felt Iranian people's enthusiasm toward discussing the importance of our planet Earth and social sustainability. I talked about how my experience as a homemaker and mother in handling housework and parenting tasks, helped me greatly in working at a financial institution and establishing a business later in life. I was able to share, with the Iranian audience, the importance of households as a social unit, and the tremendous potential of women.
What I wanted to communicate most was the balance of work and family life. When I was working for a foreign-capitalized company, my French supervisor constantly told me to achieve a good balance between the two. Working for my own company, I still follow his advice to 'review every decision made in the evening on the morning after.' He told me to strike a good balance, saying that excessively long working hours would reduce work efficiency. Poor work - life balance stems from the employment system, which can be changed. Looking at many in the audience nodding with intrigue, I was very happy to see my message getting across.
I once visited Iran back in 1975. This is my second visit after 41 years. In my youth, I used to love reading poems by the Iranian poet, Omar Khayyam (* 11th - 12th century Persian philosopher and poet. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, popular in the late 19th-century Europe, is a collection of quatrains about drinking and his in-depth insight into life). Upon arriving in Iran and sensing the smell of local nature and plants, I felt a strange sensation of suddenly being transported back to my young poetry-loving days.
Our everyday life is a series of self-fulfillment. If you give your all to each challenge you face, there will come time when your opportunity in life ripens, just as fruit on a tree ripens when the right season comes. Be it in Iran or Japan, there is always a way for women to make active social participation while tending to family life.
Abundance of highly-educated, high-achieving women in Iran
Sensitive to global trends
＜Profile＞International politics researcher specializing in the Middle East. Gained a doctorate from the University of California Graduate School of History. Assumed the current position in April 2010. Researches Middle East's political and social changes and dispute prevention with emphasis on Iran. Appeared in NHK news programs as a commentator on Iran's nuclear development issue. Covers a wide range of research themes from politics to diplomacy, peace-building and gender issues.
Last year, U.N. members adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which features 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 5 in these SDGs is with regard to women's empowerment and gender equality. The international symposium in Iran was, indeed, an opportunity to squarely face the most important themes of SDGs. Presentations by Iranian panelists were also from a perspective in line with global trends. Presentations concerning the SDGs were given by two female policymakers from Iran, namely H.E. Mm Masoumeh Ebtekar, the Vice President and Head of the Department of Environment, and H.E. Mm Shahindokht Molaverdi, Vice President for Women and Family Affairs. We were able to examine women's empowerment with shared understanding through comparison with Japan.
My presentation used the perspective of comparing Iranian and Japanese societies to point out that both countries need to adopt legislations for enhancing the parenting leave system, for example, in order to encourage active female participation in the labor market. About ten women, all of whom were highly accomplished, approached me after my session to ask questions. Some asked me what Iran should do now for women's empowerment, while others passionately talked about wanting to go to Japan for research. Iran seems to have an abundance of highly-educated, high-achieving women.
Keynote speeches by the two female Vice Presidents stressed the fact that Iran has maintained the stance of exercising internal politics and diplomacy in line with the international standards despite having been subject to economic sanctions.
H.E. Mr. Hasan Rowhani, President of Iran, is pointing to the need to encourage women's active participation in politics and support their workforce participation in order to achieve economic development. Having traveled to about 40 countries for my work, I feel that the ratio of people with high level of political and international awareness is very high in Iran. This country is filled with human resources of excellent potential.
Both genders exercising leadership
In pursuit for 'gender-equal social participation' for enhancing mutual needs
＜Profile＞Worked at the Kitasato University Hospital, etc. before becoming a specialist emergency nurse. Began teaching the expertise, advocating the need of emergency nursing from a multi-faceted approach covering clinical, theoretical and frontline knowledge. Coordinated the dispatch of 3,770 emergency nurses to communities affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Selected as the 'Woman of the Year 2012' by the Nikkei WOMAN magazine in 2012.
Having brought up by a very strict father, I have always thought that I must become independent to gain freedom. Through working with more powerful male doctors to save lives at the forefront of emergency medicine, I strived to build a gender-equal relationship based on fairness. When I was given the role of coordinating a network of healthcare professionals, and brought it to the level whereby doctors and nurses were able to acknowledge mutual needs as equals beyond the occupational boundaries, I came to realize that 'gender-equal social participation' was my life-long theme. Sometimes I wonder if I had subconsciously chosen an Iranian man to marry in order to pursue this theme.
My work involves planning and managing the activities of individual teams of healthcare professionals in order to ensure their effective operations in emergency-stricken communities. I tell junior doctors to 'draw up a scenario.' Rather than merely treating patients at hand, they must observe the entire community to plan and draw up a scenario as to what they should do to restore the community quickly to the extent that their work is no longer needed.
At the symposium, I shared my own experiences to explain that, when both men and women exercise leadership, we can meet the needs of both genders. I saw everyone in the audience smiling. It was as if all the women were saying, with their smile, that they were ready to exert leadership. My life history and experiences in emergency relief activities may have given some inspiration to young women.
Iran and Japan share many similarities in the way of people's living. Both countries have the custom of giving cash gifts to children and displaying specific decorations as part of New Year celebrations. There are numerous other Iranian customs that you find equivalents in Japan. The Japanese phrase 'Otsukaresama,' often used among colleagues for appreciating each other's hard work at the end of a work day, has no direct English equivalent. Yet, there is a perfect Persian equivalent, 'Khastenabashi' The people of Iran and Japan seem to share a similar perception of the world.
The Middle East is currently facing a number of difficult issues, such as the emergence of extremism and protraction of armed conflicts. Iran is expected to play a key role in restoring peace and stability in the region. This symposium should be followed on with multi-faceted networking activities for building even greater trusting ties between Iran and Japan.
All the female experts from Japan engaged in active discussions, offered their insight and energetically networked with the Iranian audience despite the tough 5-day schedule including two nights sleeping on the plane. We wish for their continued achievements in their respective fields, and request greater contribution to our program for 'Building Relationships between Iran and the International Society.'
See here for the summary of the international symposium "Promoting Active Particilpation of Women, Peace and Sustainable Development."
Click here to visit the website for the Sasakawa Middle East Islam Fund.