The second year students of BAIS-108 (Peace Studies and Social Movements) under Dr. Loreta Castro hosted a webinar entitled "Japan’s Peace, Women’s & Environmental Movements: Current Thrusts”. This student-led event was part of the International Studies Department’s Lecture Series and had as co-organizers the Miriam Advocacy Centers: the Center for Peace Education, Women and Gender Institute, and Environmental Studies Institute. Held on November 26, 2021, the esteemed guest speaker was Dr. Kathy R. Matsui, a professor at the Department of Global Citizenship Studies at Seisen University in Tokyo, Japan.
Dr. Kathy Matsui began the lecture by listing down the current issues faced by Japan at present. Some of the issues mentioned were high suicide rates among the youth, discrimination against foreigners, challenges to the rights of women and the LGBTQ, the alarming use of plastics, the threat from nuclear power plants, unresolved issues with neighboring countries for crimes done during WWII, the tensions related to US military base in Okinawa, poverty among single mothers and children, territorial disputes, Japan's failure to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and lastly, the attempts of the government to remove Article 9 (which prohibits involvement in war) from their Constitution.
Dr. Matsui highlighted the movements undertaken by civil society organizations in order to solve these problems. Among them are the collaborative projects put into action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Women's movement to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 1325. According to her, while Japanese women have been actively fighting for their civil rights for more than a century, the changes done by the government to support equality policies are still not enough. There is more room for improvement before gender equality is achieved in the country. On the topic of environmental-centered movements, Japan aims to reduce the severe overconsumption of plastic in the state, aside from raising awareness on the issue and practicing strict policies like waste segregation and recycling. Another movement for the environment is the campaign against further constructions of nuclear power plants in the country. According to Dr. Matsui, peaceful usage of nuclear power is a myth. This radioactive waste only serves to pollute the environment and dangerously harm the citizens exposed to it. As for the movements for peace, there are currently demonstrators who continue to protest against the US Base in Okinawa. Another important peace movement in Japan is the Northeast Asia Peace Education Project, and alongside it are the efforts of peace educators who object against the removal of their Constitution's Article 9. Dr. Matsui emphasized the need for Japan to learn more about the use of nonviolence and diplomacy in order to prevent further historical revisionism, be more accountable to the WWII victims, including the “comfort women”, and promote greater understanding and reconciliation esp. in Northeast Asia. -- Written by Peony Marie Lam, 2nd year International Studies student