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JICA USA September/October 2014

JICA Senior Gender Adviser Tanaka speaks at CSIS about women’s empowerment

PhotoLeft to right: Eileen Pennington, Associate Director of The Asia Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program; Amanda Van Den Dool, Program Analyst at USAID; Yumiko Tanaka, Senior Advisor on Gender and Development, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Amy Studdart (moderator), Deputy Director & Fellow, William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy, CSIS.
[Photo courtesy of Asia Foundation]


By Stace Nicholson, Senior Program Officer

On September 23, at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., JICA Senior Advisor for Gender and Development Dr. Yumiko Tanaka outlined JICA's efforts to promote gender equality and women's empowerment in developing countries.

As the organizers of the CSIS event noted, Dr. Tanaka's presentation came within the context of a series of international conferences held this year to draw attention to the importance of women to Japan and across the world.

In March, as part of the Japan-Africa Business Women Exchange Program that was launched during the Fifth Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD V) in 2013, JICA brought together hundreds of businesswomen from several African countries and the Tokyo metropolitan region for the "Empowerment of Women through Entrepreneurship" Conference. This conference, co-organized with the U.S. State Department, provided networking opportunities for those women entrepreneurs in attendance, as well as a platform for them to share the challenges they have confronted in building successful businesses.

Subsequently, the landmark World Assembly for Women was held in Tokyo. Dubbed "WAW Tokyo 2014," the conference featured a keynote address by Japanese Prime Minister Abe, in which he unveiled a number of initiatives his government has taken to advance the role of women in Japanese society.

Against this backdrop, Dr. Tanaka noted that JICA's gender-mainstreaming interventions fall within five priority categories: women's economic empowerment, women's rights and security, women's education and health, gender-responsive governance, and gender-responsive infrastructure. She then highlighted JICA projects that are helping to make a difference in these areas.

Dr. Tanaka explained that JICA has been particularly active in addressing women's economic empowerment through agriculture and rural development. This, she clarified, is because most women in developing countries live in rural areas and derive their livelihood from agricultural production.

In Tanzania, for example, JICA implemented the Kilimanjaro Agriculture Technology Training Project II, which offered co-ed training programs for rice farmers so that women farmers could not only adequately voice their needs, but also become more involved in decision-making at home. As a result, the project achieved an average increase in paddy yields of one ton per hectare. According to Dr. Tanaka, such a positive impact underscores the importance of promoting gender equality and women's empowerment as a stand-alone goal so as to improve the effectiveness of development projects in all sectors.

Furthermore, Dr. Tanaka pointed out that JICA is supporting women's development centers in six regions in Nigeria, along with many other kinds of skill development and vocational training projects involving women in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Philippines, as well as in some Latin American countries.

Dr. Tanaka then detailed some of the many ways in which JICA has worked to advance women's security. In the Philippines, JICA's Project on Rehabilitation and Recovery from Typhoon Yolanda integrates quick impact surveys to ensure women's needs are taken into account during the reconstruction of economic and social infrastructure, such as fish processing factories, healthcare facilities and schools. In Africa, JICA recently collaborated with the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) to train 20,000 police officers and raise their awareness against gender-based violence. Likewise, JICA has undertaken anti-human trafficking projects in Thailand since 2009, and in Myanmar and Vietnam since 2012. These activities include establishing a hotline system to support trafficked persons, strengthening the skills of counselors, enhancing networks among peer-support groups and improving coordination among concerned national agencies.

Finally, with respect to gender-friendly infrastructure, Dr. Tanaka mentioned that JICA has set a good example by providing sari guards, women-only coaches, security cameras, and emergency alarms for women who travel on the mass transit system in India's capital of New Delhi.

To conclude her remarks, Dr. Tanaka observed that JICA is currently exploring further collaboration with the U.S. on women's economic empowerment projects in the Lower Mekong region. In order to further strengthen U.S.-Japan cooperation in this field, she opined that both sides need to analyze their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges together.

JICA recognizes that eliminating gender inequality is essential to realizing its goal of inclusive development. Therefore, JICA will continue to mold an environment where women--half of the world's population--can reach their full potential.

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