Young Leaders Invitation Program: Micronesia
(The young leaders trying on kimono. From left: Ms. Milañ Loeuk, Ms. Joleen Ngoriakl, and Ms. Teresita Laarwon)
The following morning after their arrival, the three women visited APIC’s office and after being introduced to the staff Executive Director Mr. Shoji Sato gave an explanation about APIC’s activities. The guests took an active interest in the briefing and furthering their knowledge of APIC’s role in international cooperation in regards to the Pacific Islands.
◆Lunch with JCIE President & CEO Mr. Okawara
On April 8th, the leaders had lunch with Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE) President and CEO Mr. Akio Okawara, who gave a briefing about Japanese politics and society. Mr. Okawara talked about the Japanese Diet, organization of political parties, declining birth rate and aging population, and other issues in Japanese society. The leaders also talked about social problems and challenges in their country. Specifically, the problem of urban centralization and the associated lack of housing, and the increase of accepting information on SNS without doubting its validity.
◆APIC Dinner Reception
The Micronesian Ambassador to Japan, Ambassador Fritz, along with Micronesian ministers and people affiliated with organizations to be visited by the leaders were in attendance at the dinner reception held on April 7th. APIC President Mr. Peter Sato gave the opening remarks, along with a toast from Ambassador Fritz. At the end of the evening the three leaders gave individual speeches, thanking everyone for inviting them to participate in the program, and talking about their aspirations while in Japan. Ms. Loeuk and Ms. Laarwon presented traditional weaving and necklaces, along with a loincloth for men. Ms. Ngoriakl presented her children’s book “Sechelik Palau”. Being able to see such important treasures from the Pacific Islands made it a very memorable evening.
In the morning of the 8th, the group paid a visit to Chief Officer Mr. Shimizu of the Oceania Division of the MoFA, who gave a briefing about Japan’s diplomacy in the Micronesian region, Japan’s efforts in regards to gender as part of the WAW! (World Assembly for Women) Conference that took place in Tokyo the month before. Talking about gender in her country, Ms. Loeuk commented that “[in the] Marshall Islands, women, regardless of their age, if they’re married or unmarried, they hold responsibility for their family and community, and carry out a role like that of a mother”. Ms. Ngoriakl also commented that it is important for her to receive support from her community as the youngest State Government Chief of Staff.
◆Visit to JICA
In the afternoon of the 8th, the group visited JICA, where after being greeted by manager Mr. Wakasugi, they received an explanation about JICA’s activities and project outlines in the Micronesian region from Mr. Okumura, Chief Survey Officer, and Mr. Maruyama, Vice Survey Officer. They first discussed ODA (Official Development Assistance), and gave details regarding the progress and scale of the projects. The leaders seemed happy to discover that there were projects their countries could apply for, and expressed gratitude for Japan’s interest in giving support to their countries, commenting that they felt a connection with Japan after visiting JICA.
◆Sona Area Tokyo
In the morning of the 9th, the group visited Sona Area Tokyo for the purpose of experiencing hands-on disaster prevention. The facility gives visitors the chance to experience earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters in order to learn how to protect yourself in such a case. The leaders listened to the explanation from staff members while touring the facility, and after experiencing a magnitude 7.3 earthquake they learned about how to safely evacuate. Ms. Ngoriakl commented that “I learned a lot about what action to take in the event of a disaster. I want to make such a center in my country so that people can go and learn about how to increase the survival rate in such a disaster”.
◆Edogawa Eco Center
In the afternoon of the same day, the group visited the Edogawa Eco Center in Koto ward of Tokyo, where they were informed about actions being taken against problems such as global warming, climate change, and environmental destruction. Edogawa ward is surrounded by rivers and ocean, and is at sea level, and just like the leaders’ home countries, Edogawa ward is extremely susceptible to the effects of rising sea levels. Thus the ward, with the cooperation of special classes at schools and city resident groups, is tackling the problem of citizens’ understanding and awareness of environmental issues. During the Q&A session, Ms. Loeuk commented “The Marshall Islands is a country that is slowly sinking, so the rising sea levels is an urgent problem for us. Our country is built upon an atoll, which means there is not much land, so when the sea levels rise there is nowhere to run”. An employee at the center replied “environmental problems are also linked to disasters, so this is a large problem involving human lives”, and further passionate questions regarding actions against rising sea levels continued.
In the morning of the 10th, the leaders visited Professor Anne McDonald of Sophia University Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, where she talked about the Japanese ama female divers. The divers have been able to maintain the environment and protect its resources by discussing together with the community the use and limit (time and place) of new technologies as they emerge, such as goggles and oxygen tanks. After listening to the professor’s talk, the leaders seemed to taken in something new from the professor’s message of not immediately being overjoyed about new technology and immediately using it, but to think carefully of the impact it might have on people and the environment.
In the afternoon of the same day, the group met with exchange students from Xavier High School in Micronesia, and the Micronesia Conservation Trust. The students are part of APIC-Sophia and APIC-MCT’s ‘Exchange Student Scholarship Fund’ and are studying at Sophia University. The leaders commented “We are happy that young students from our country are here in Japan living well. We hope that more students from our country will come and study in Japan, and afterwards return and use their experiences to contribute to society”. After meeting the students, they took a tour of the campus, visiting the cafeteria, library, and classrooms, and bought some souvenirs at the bookstore on the way out.
◆Visit to the Pacific Islands Centre (PIC)
In the evening the group visited the Pacific Islands Centre located in the Shikonkan of Meiji University. PIC lists providing sustainable economic development to the island nations as its goal, with trade, attractive investment, tourism, and other angles being discussed and taken forward. The leaders talked about different ideas regarding possible projects with PIC; after the visit Ms. Laarwon happily said “I’m glad to get to know that there is an organization in Japan that focuses on the interaction between Japan and Pacific Islands. I didn’t think that I would see traditional products from my country here in Japan”.
On the 11th, the group visited Tsuda University’s Kodaira campus and paid a courtesy call to and dined with the school’s President, Ms. Yuko Takahashi. During the meal, President Takahashi talked about the school’s history and history of Japanese women; the leaders and President Takahashi exchanged opinions on women’s independence and gender in the island region. Afterward, they took a tour of the campus and visited the Tsuda Umeko reference room inside the library and enjoyed the folding screen painting by Tadashi Moriya titled “Tsuda Umeko Studies in America”.
In the afternoon of the 11th, a roundtable discussion titled “Inviting Young Leaders of Micronesia” took place. The aim of the discussion was to familiarize people living in Japan with the Micronesian region, and thus each leader made a presentation about their country. Ms. Ngoriakl talked about her country, Palau, and tailored her message to students, talking about empowerment and her experience as the youngest female Palau Koror State Government Chief of Staff, giving words of encouragement to the young female students. Using her experience as a history teacher at Yapp Catholic High School, Ms. Laarwon of the Federated States of Micronesia talked about the history and connection between Japan and FSM, from past to present. Ms. Loeuk of the Marshall Islands discussed the relationship between the traditions of the Marshall Islands and women’s roles, mixing in information on the structure of canoes and gender theory. Participants included President Takahashi of Tsuda University, English literature professors, and graduate school students. During the Q&A session, there were many questions from the audience regarding language and identity, Japanese colonial rule and maintaining of culture, and the Islanders’ feelings about the Japanese colonial rule.
On Saturday and Sunday the group took a trip to Kyoto, where they visited famous sites such as the Sanjusan-gendo Hall, Nijo Castle, Kinkaku-ji Temple, and Nishiki Market. Their activities were not only limited to sightseeing, but they also visited Wak Japan where they experienced wearing a kimono and partaking in the tea ceremony. The President, Ms. Michi Ogawa talked about setting up the company and work-life-balance. The group enjoyed their time sightseeing and experiencing Japanese culture in Kyoto.
While enjoying the beautiful April cherry blossoms during their one-week stay, the leaders were able to form a network within Japan with the people they met, making for a well-spent trip. We hope that the young women will go back to their home countries and take advantage of the experiences and connections they made while in Japan.
PROJECTS "Interview: Tsuda University President Dr. Yuko Takahashi"
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