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Akie Abe Takes Stand for Women’s Power, Passion
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Akie Abe Takes Stand for Women’s Power, Passion

In today’s world, women’s role is essential in all human activities as seen in the increasing number of females participating in social, political, and economic activities in most countries, including Iran and Japan.
Speakers at the joint Iran-Japan seminar ‘Women, Peace and Sustainable Development’ at the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) in Tehran on Monday, recognized the shared goal to realize the indivisible role of women in peace and sustainable development and making use of women’s contribution through sharing each other’s experience and wisdom.
Japan’s First Lady Akie Abe, a keynote speaker, said as a woman she supports women playing active roles in society through a wide range of activities so as to improve their status and to create a better working environment for them.
Responding to a question on the sidelines of the seminar, Abe told the Financial Tribune that the Japanese government is making all efforts to address the problems of working women.
“However, it is my personal opinion that women do not have to work as hard as men and on the same level as they do, there are a myriad of other ways in which women can be productive and active in a society,” she said.  
To help bring sustainable peace to the world, “I believe that what is needed is not the masculine hierarchical society that men have played a major role in so far, which puts national benefit first. What we need here is for women who have given birth from generation to generation to go beyond the framework of the hierarchy, and assume a role in establishing horizontal connections,” Abe stressed.
The Tokyo government has been criticized in recent years for the poor working conditions for women in that country. Most married women are forced to drop out of work after giving birth as there are no facilities to take care of their infants. Few women land career-track jobs, (only 12% of new hires in 2010). Secondly, many are marginalized after the child is born and do not resume working as they get inadequate support to do so, and also because inflexible employment policies mean their careers have been derailed, says an article in the Japan Times by Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan.
Following a government report criticizing the status of working women, on April 19, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced plans to extend childcare leave and expand public daycare facilities.

  Conflict of Interest
In her keynote address, Akie Abe noted that the Japanese society plays a major role in forming a pyramid-type hierarchical social structure in which every person performs his/her own role. The hierarchical society which prioritizes national interests has led to conflicts instead of bringing about world peace, because each country serves its own interests on a priority, creating conflicting interests with other countries.
As chairperson of the Japanese Foundation for Encouragement of Social Contribution, she said Iran is a progressive nation that takes various approaches to the improvement of the status of women within the Islamic context. Activities such as this symposium have contributed to the friendly relationship between Iran and Japan.
Deputy for Legal and International Affairs at the Foreign Ministry Seyyed Abbas Araqchi, Chairman of Nippon Foundation Yohei Sasakawa, Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi, Vice President and Head of Department of Environment Massoumeh Ebtekar, and President of Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) Nobuo Tanaka, attended the seminar.
“I would like to see young women participate in the SPF programs and be encouraged to play active roles in the Iranian society,” Abe further said, hoping for a good impression of Japan in the Iranian society so as to help boost two-way ties.
The Sasakawa Peace Foundation, set up in 1986, invites 10 diplomat candidates from the School of International Relations every year to take part in programs in Japan to encourage the interests of Iran’s younger generation. So far, 56 people have participated in the programs.
The symposium would help develop friendly relations between the two nations, and advance women’s participation in both societies, Abe added.
Araqchi in his opening speech underscored Iran’s priority to boost cooperation with Japan to address hurdles to sustainable development.
“The fact is that long-term international development is contingent upon permanent peace and there will be no opportunity for development in an atmosphere of war, insecurity, violence, extremism and poverty.”
The Iranian government “is determined to meet its objective of securing gender equality,” Molaverdi said in her speech.
Special attention to improving women’s conditions and empowering them in various areas that have been mentioned in upstream documents of the country as well as the laws devised, have achieved notable results, she said. “Among them are the strong presence of girls and women in the education sector, particularly higher education.”

  Sasakawa Pledges Long-Term Engagement
Yohei Sasakawa, in his keynote speech said that in Japan just like in Iran, promoting the role of women is being given greater priority and it is now a key government initiative.
He took stock of the commonalities between the two nations and said his foundation is involved in several projects to promote mutual trust and understanding between Iran and Japan including the Japan-Iran Conference, held almost every year since 2010 in Tehran and Tokyo as a platform for government officials, researchers, and academia to discuss various issues of international concern.
“I am aware that promoting participation of women in society is also a major topic in Iran. Our cultures and situations may differ in certain aspects, but we are both seeking ways to respond to our particular circumstances,” he noted.
Sasakawa pledged that the SPF will continue to engage with Iran from a long-term perspective. “Let’s hope that what we discuss here today and our future projects will bring about continued dialogue that will contribute to peace and sustainable development.”
Abe also planted an olive sapling as a token of friendship and peace between Iran and Japan.
The tree is as a symbol of peace and friendship between the two nations and to strengthen mutual bilateral ties, the DOE chief Ebtekar said.
An agreement signed between the Ministry of Agriculture Jihad and the DOE and Japanese government aims to employ mechanisms that help curb climate change, she said.
“Under the agreement, rural women around Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran will take part in educational workshops on sustainable farming and alternative jobs that will empower them towards sustainable development and help save the dying Lake Urmia.”
Molaverdi said the second round of the symposium will be held in Japan next year.

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