Thursday, April 28, 2016

U.S. Embassy announces leadership seminars for female high school students

Shusuke Murai, The Japan Times

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The U.S. Embassy will hold workshops for female Japanese junior high and high school students on leadership and speaking up in bid to promote gender equality.

The program, called “Go Girls!,” will involve four sessions in June, July, September and October at the American Center Japan in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.

Students will hear lectures and take part in discussions on the themes of leadership and independence.

Among the tuition materials will be U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Dear Me” video message, which the White House posted on YouTube in March 2015.

“Dear Me” is a motivational message in which the first lady gives reflections and encouragement to her younger self.

“Dear Michelle, stop worrying so much about getting things wrong,” the message says. “Success has nothing to do with perfection, so stop being nervous, raise your hand, use your voice, get it wrong, learn from your mistakes and keep moving on.”

Other materials include a “mega-hit princess movie” about a girl who attains independence, organizers said.

A female U.S. diplomat is also scheduled to speak about her life.

The workshops are free of charge and will be conducted in Japanese, with interpretation provided when the speakers use English.

The aim of the program is to foster a “zest for living” by encouraging the students to think for themselves and exert their individuality and leadership, said Madoka Shimote of the U.S. Embassy, the program’s organizer.

“We want female students in Japan to learn about what America is like through this girls’ empowerment program,” she said. The seminars are part of a broader public diplomacy program initiated by the U.S. government.

One of the speakers will be Asako Osaki, director of gender equality nonprofit group Gender Action Platform.

Osaki said the training of young female students to become leaders is especially important in Japan, where there are few women in senior positions in politics and business.

“In Japan, women are less likely to raise their voices or to take actions to change society by their own hand” due to fixed gender roles formed when they are students, she said.

“I believe it’s essential to build an environment to encourage more young girls to become leaders in the future,” she said.

Applicants must be aged from 13 to 18.

They should submit two essays in Japanese.

One essay will describes the applicant, while the other should be a reflection of their ideas on how society should change, or about prominent female figures they respect. Applications must be made online by May 7 via ACJ’s website:

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