Speech for Equality: Let’s Begin to Walk a Road of Gender Equality

By Nagisa Fujimoto, ELP Student

Dear fellow women citizens and those who want to overcome gender-based discrimination.

Last year, The World Economic Forum proclaimed that Japan was 111th out of 144 countries in The Global Gender Gap Index. The Global Gender Gap Index is an index designed to measure gender equality. I was shocked at the ranking because not only was it our home country but also a country with strong economic power.

I am a student now, so I feel less discrimination against women compared to working women or married women. However, in 3 years I will go into the workforce, and I will probably face some detrimental treatment based on gender. If you are a student like me, you really need to know that even today a lot of women continue to fight for equality. If you are working, you need to think again whether your workplace does actualize equality of women and men. If you are a homemaker, you need to reimagine if you are sharing the housework equally with your husband.

Before I talk about the issue in Japan, I’d like to ask you some questions. Do you have stereotypes toward women or men? Or have you ever felt that stereotypes are obstacles in your life? As a typical example, women should be quieter and submissive, or women should cook and do homemaking. On the other hand, men should not shed tears and should be assertive or don’t have to do homemaking and raise their children. These kinds of stereotypes make it harder for us women to work, or they sometimes make us uncomfortable in our daily life. But also, some men feel stressed about stereotypes toward them. We women tend to expect men to be strong or be good at math, but again those are stereotypes.

In Japan, pay gaps between men and women are widening, and it would be difficult for women to return to their workplace when they got married or delivered a baby. The Japanese government is struggling to fix these problems, but the gap still does not close.

Another remarkable thing is the low representation of women in politics. According to a survey, the proportion of women politicians in global average is about 22 percent while the one in Japan is about 8 percent. I wonder when the first female prime minister will be elected in Japan.

We need to think not only about the workplace issues, but also domestic ones. In Japan, a division of labor by gender is still strongly rooted; men work outside and women work inside. This idea is also a stereotype, but it is not rational and fair for both women and men. It is sad that we are assumed what we must do by our gender.

I hope that women keep seeking gender equality and do not abandon the hope for it. Gender equality means that we have a right to be provided various opportunities in life regardless of our gender and we should be able to achieve opportunities for self-realization.

Let us aspire to be whatever we want to be. We can be a doctor, a politician, a scientist, police officer, and a lawyer. Let us speak out if our boss runs over us because we are a woman. Let us say to our husband to become more active in caring for our children. Some women strike a balance between child raising and work, but it is mentally and physically demanding and they often need the assistance of their husband. Let us ask our husbands to cook or make our children’s lunches. No rules exist that the mother or wife must prepare meals. And let’s try to view ourselves as human beings, not only as women or men. Let’s break free from an island of gender segregation and begin to walk a road of gender equality.

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