Rica Nagashima, Japan
CAMPAIGNER FOR GENDER EQUALITY. ADVOCATE FOR WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT. A WAGGGS STOP THE VIOLENCE CHAMPION.
“I believe that women’s empowerment is one of the most critical aspects for the development of society and the environment.”
Nagashima Rica is a graduate student based in Osaka, West Japan. She also has an academic background in policy analysis and researching women’s issues related to climate change from a feminist perspective.
She advocates for girls and women's rights to achieve gender equality, especially relating to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), and has a great motivation to challenge herself and broaden her horizons by putting herself in situations that are out of her comfort zone.
She was selected to join a two-year programme organized by the Ministry of Education in Japan, which promoted students to go abroad to study. Here she gained many campaign communications skills, including how to give impactful speeches and presentations.
For the last few months she has been preparing for and participating in the United Nations, Commission on the Status of Women - the principal intergovernmental body that sets the direction for the advancement of women and girls around the world. Below we interviewed her about her experience.
WAGGGS: How did you feel about being selected to participate at the 66th session of the United Nations, Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66)?
Rica: I felt excited and thrilled to participate at CSW66! I was also delighted that I could have an opportunity to represent girls and young women's voices which are likely to be ignored in society. It was a wonderful experience for me to interact with young women and increase my awareness of girls and young women's issues. And although it was a bit of a bummer to only be able to join CSW66 online, I was nevertheless still glad the Commission was able to offer involvement virtually. I am also thankful to WAGGGS for this fantastic opportunity. Through it, I was able to deepen my knowledge of girls and young women's issues and most importantly discuss and suggest solutions to them!
As a Global Advocacy Champion, I took on a role within the Policy Analysis Team. Our objective was to analyze the policies proposed by UN member state representatives at CSW66 meetings, and to recommend what we think was needed to achieve gender equality and to ensure the policies included the voices of girls and young women worldwide. We met online at least once a week to develop our key messages, including specific actions and issues that we believe are necessary to achieve gender equality. It was inspiring because we all grew up in different cultures and have unique thoughts on gender issues and the problems each country faces.
WAGGGS: What were your expectations as a Global Advocacy Champion?
Rica: I expected to represent the issues that we girls and young women face and for our perspectives on these issues to be heard by the national and regional decision-makers. Too often, when categorized as "women's issues," the perspective of girls and young women is not included. We, as Global Advocacy Champions, exist to make girls and young women's voices, which are even more vulnerable among women in society, recognized. Our mission is to be a voice and provide hope for girls and young women, to affirm that it is not in vain to speak up, that we can make an impact at a global and national level.
I’ve been involved in the Girl Scouts since I was six years old. I never once gave up on a challenge because I was a girl. However, once I stepped out into society, people patronized, "Are you sure you can do this? You are just a girl!" At a very young age, I asked myself, "Why are women and girls considered weak in society, and why are we supposed to be inferior to men and boys?" This experience sparked my interest in gender issues from a young age and my desire to take action to make a difference on a global and national level. This was my primary motivation for becoming a Global Advocacy Champion.
WAGGGS: Can you tell us about one side event that you attended that you found really interesting? Is there a quote you liked from it? Something relevant about it?
Rica: I found the side event, “Women's Time Is Money”, organized by UN Women, very interesting. It discussed how climate change and unpaid care work affect women's productivity in the agricultural sector. Women are disproportionately affected by climate change, and women are particularly vulnerable and isolated compared to men in agriculture. Women collect fuel for use by the family and perform household chores for their families, and all this unpaid work inhibits their profits in agriculture, and contributes to poverty. During the event, the hosts addressed how policy advocacy i.e. advocacy to incorporates women's perspectives is paramount if we are to combat this gender gap. They also highlighted that policies should be monitored and continually checked to see if they are sufficiently inclusive and address women's issues. I learned that the gender norm that women should support men/women and that they should do the housework oppresses women and is a severe problem, especially among people in rural communities who are involved in the agricultural sector. I also learnt about how crucial is to incorporate women's perspectives into policies and that data collection is essential to helping bring visibility to their problems and experiences.
WAGGGS: Were you able to meet with a decision maker? How did it go? What did you discuss? What did they promise to do?
Rica: I had a chance to visit and present our key messages to the Cabinet Office of Japan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. A specific area I discussed with Tomoko Hayashi, Director of Gender Equality Bureau, Cabinet Office of Japan, is what I perceive as a severe gender issue in Japan. We discussed how regressive/underdeveloped sex education in Japan is. They mentioned that the government is providing a new curriculum covering sex education, mainly in order to prevent violence against women and girls in educational institutions in Japan and so that young women and girls can access adequate Comprehensive Sexuality Education. However, I pointed out that it doesn't cover sex education for educators, including teachers and parents. I insisted that it was not enough to provide this to young women and girls but that it must also be given to educators.
I affirmed that violence against women and girls would not be tolerated in any forms or in any contexts through my conversation with them. They assured me that they would continue to provide adequate education, safe spaces, and hotline services for girls and women exposed to violence.
I also insisted that I want people in Japan to know gender inequality is a matter for all people to care about. It should not be understood as something that women and girls fight for on their own. I emphasized how I work on raising conscientiousness when it comes to gender equality in Japan by for example participating as a Global Advocacy Champion and sharing my learnings back with the Girl Scouts in Japan.
WAGGGS: How will your advocacy journey continue from now on? And what tools or things did you learn from being an Global Advocacy Champion that you think will be useful for you Guiding or personal life?
Rica: What I am keenly aware of in my current activities as a Global Advocacy Champion is how far behind Japan is in the field of gender. It is also very far behind the level of awareness of society as a whole. I feel that gender issues are dismissed as "women's issues,". By that I mean, too few people in Japan recognize or understand that addressing these issues will lead to the empowerment of not only women and girls, but also the improvement of society as a whole. My experience at CSW66 as a Global Advocacy Champion made me even more motivated to tackle gender issues at the domestic level and even more aware of how girls and women experience gender issues in a patriarchal society like Japan. I also reaffirmed that addressing gender issues requires a more intersectional and inclusive perspective rather than categorizing them solely within the framework of women and men.
I am currently studying gender and development studies in graduate school. I want to be a person who can make a positive impact, not for myself, but by giving back to people, communities, and society by using what I have learnt and gained through my own life experiences. I will continue to challenge myself to be a powerful advocate for gender equality and to keep being a voice for girls and women worldwide, and in Japan! I would like to continue working toward realizing a society where one day everyone can be themselves as they are.