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Report on the Campus-Wide Open Seminar: “From International Cooperation Volunteer to Gender Expert”


The Global Collaboration Center held a campus-wide open seminar titled “From International Cooperation Volunteer to Gender Expert” on January 13, 2015. At the seminar, gender expert Ryoko Yonamine spoke about her career and work in international cooperation.

Ms. Yonamine was a student volunteer with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in India and a JICA volunteer at a Nepalese NGO promoting women’s rights. There Ms. Yonamine was involved in a project to support conflict-affected internally displaced widows. She also worked as a university lecturer and a program advisor at the Cabinet Office’s Secretariat of the International Peace Cooperation Headquarters. Today Ms. Yonamine is active in the international cooperation field as a gender expert at a private-sector consultancy.

(Ms. Yonamine leads the seminar.)

Remember Your Own Background and Discern the Best Way to Act

Ms. Yonamine said that being born and raised in Okinawa had created in her a keen awareness of world peace. This inspired her to study in the United Kingdom where she discovered Development Studies and Gender Studies. After completing her academic work in Gender Studies, she was a university lecturer and researcher in Japan. She became a JICA volunteer and was sent to work with Nepalese widows, a community that is discriminated against in that society. As part of her activities at the Cabinet Office’s Secretariat of the International Peace Cooperation Headquarters, Ms. Yonamine promoted gender mainstreaming in Peace keeping operations as a training instructor.

Listening to Ms. Yonamine’s talk, I felt that she leveraged her unique background. She did what could only be accomplished by someone with her background, and she took action that was optimal from that position. That is what I found particularly interesting: the way her Okinawan origins inspired her desire to promote world peace and the way she was able to take concrete and detailed actions to support widows and promote gender mainstreaming precisely because she is a woman herself. I felt that she discerned what she should do based on her awareness of her unique background in terms of birthplace and gender.

Ms. Yonamine said that sometimes in her work she was looked down upon by the men around her because she was a young woman. In her work overseas, she is a visitor from the outside. Taking views or actions that could be seen as inappropriate from a Gender Studies perspective and recognizing them as cultural elements, Ms. Yonamine sought cooperation from local people who shared a similar awareness to her own. I sensed that Ms. Yonamine was able to produce results because she used effective methods based on her unique background and the situation around her. This will be an important principle for me when I take actions in the future. I will always keep in mind the two questions: What should I do in light of my unique characteristics? What is an effective means to accomplish what I have decided to do?

(Kanako Sugiyama, 1st year student, Faculty of Letters and Education)

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