Monday, September 12, 2011

First week

Our Fellows arrived over Labor Day weekend and hit the ground running!  They had a busy week at Web of Benefit.  In additon to firsthand observation of the organization's operation, learning about founding a grassroots NPO, and drafting their Dream Proposals, the Fellows also visited other organizations in Boston such as the Mayor's Commission for Women, the Family Justice Center, and Boston Legal Services.

(Photo credit: Yuka Miyazawa)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An Excerpt from Yamanashi newspaper by JWLI Fellow Yuka

Challenges I faced in the last 20 years working in child-care support

I started “Chibikko House” (NPO Child-Care Support Center Chibikko House) in November, 1991, when my daughter was 3 months old. Due to insecurities in my abilities as a mother, I felt a great need for child care support, and so, using my knowledge as a nursery school teacher, I opened a child-care center for babies and mothers. Since then, I started various work such as: publishing a child-care information magazine called “Chibikko Press”; establishing a child-care circle network; organizing parent-child workshops; holding child-care support training seminars; holding several kids events; and setting up a daycare center. It’s been almost 20 years since I first started the child-care center.

If someone were to ask me what has changed in the last 20 years, I would answer that the concept of child-care support has become much more widely accepted in Japanese society than before. One great advancement is the number of the child-care centers - three 20 years ago, and now more than 100. In addition, the number of people and organizations that work for child-care support is increasing. Their lively efforts are impressive. Whenever we got observers from outside of Yamanashi, I believed more and more that Yamanashi is the leading prefecture in child-care support.

However, problems associated with child care are more serious and widespread with the changing of times. I feel that it is very difficult to find solutions for such serious issues. News about child abuse on TV shocks us almost every day. We now have to think of child abuse as not only a parents’ issue but also a social problem for parents and children.

After my experiences, I believe there are 2 objectives that we now need for society regarding child-care support. They are the “empowerment of mothers” and “companies’ social contributions”.

“Empowerment of mothers” means the recovery of mothers’ confidence. I’ve seen mothers who were away from work due to pregnancy and child birth and have lost confidence because they feel like they are isolated from society and stuck in child care with loneliness and anxiety. Because of their depression, the number of mothers who have children but want to work and earn some money has been increasing. Mothers who wish to work suffer when they have this philosophy that they have to stay home and raise children pushed upon them. We also have to consider fathers and families as well. We have to try to provide a good environment where working parents can work and raise children with relief and confidence. A situation where people who stay home and raise children or who work and raise children having full confidence in society and enjoying time with their children, should lead to children’s happiness.  

My second objective has to do with “companies’ social contributions”. When companies think about CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), I want them to focus on “child education”, too. A rich education for children will lead to a bright future for Japan. According to a survey by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), countries leading in education, such as Finland and New Zealand, put great focus on the budget and policies for children’s education, but the budget for children’s education in Japan is among the lowest in the world.

As a start, companies can start CSR and build a system where all of society can think about children’s education. And it will be a wonderful day when Japan becomes a country where all children, whether they are from poor or rich families, can have the best level of education.

To realize those two objectives, we will step up to a new level and welcome our 21st year.