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On February 26, the Soka Gakkai Women's Peace Committee hosted their 5th Culture of Peace lecture at the Josei Toda International Center in Tokyo. Around 150 Women's Peace Committee members from neighboring prefectures attended.
Guest lecturer Professor Keiko Ikeda of Shizuoka University, who is also director of the Training Division for the Women's Network for East Japan Disaster formed after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, spoke on the role of women and the issues they face in reconstruction following natural disasters. Ms. Akiko Kojima, head of the Soka Gakkai's nurses group, then spoke about the relief work she carried out as part of a medical team--comprised of volunteer nurses and doctors who are Soka Gakkai members--providing medical and consultation services to evacuees in the Tohoku region immediately after the disaster. Ms. Mariko Kojima from Iwaki City, Fukushima, also described her experience of having to evacuate her home near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
In her talk, Professor Ikeda discussed the process of post-disaster reconstruction from a gender perspective, emphasizing the point that promotion of gender equality and caring for the vulnerable, such as children, the elderly and people of lower socioeconomic standing, plays a large role in optimizing disaster-preparedness and in facilitating faster and safer recovery post-disaster. She pointed out that existing tensions or social divides within a society or group are often exacerbated following a crisis and that working to address these issues ahead of time benefits all and lowers fatalities.
Professor Ikeda also noted that following times of disaster, society can in fact be presented with "windows of opportunity" to address such existing issues and work towards building better social structures based on equality and respect for diversity. Balanced participation by men and women in decision-making processes is the key. She cited a positive example of this from Indonesia following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, where various NPOs worked together with the government to provide programs to help empower women.
In conclusion, Professor Ikeda encouraged women to become familiar with those living in their community and their needs so that they can better help one another in a crisis and highlighted the benefit of Soka Gakkai's already existing organizational network in local communities.
The lecture ended with a question and answer session. One woman shared her determination to help her town council take into consideration the needs of women, children and the elderly more when planning for disaster-preparedness.
[Adapted from an article in the February 28, 2013, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan; photo courtesy of Seikyo Shimbun]
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