"The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race." - Susan B. Anthony
The UN Day was celebrated at Nagoya University on the 21st of October, 2014. Organized jointly by the Graduate School of International Development & the Women Leaders Program to Promote Well-being in Asia, this event aims to address the role of women in contributing to the overall well-being of the society and how women can utilize their talents to make the world a better place. The celebration included a key lecture by Ms Kaoru Nemoto, Director of the United Nations Information Centre, a panel discussion on achieving well-being for all beyond 2015, a cross-cultural performance show by university students, and a Joint Outreach Mission at Nagoya University organized by the United Nations Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Guests that were present during the event include United Nations representatives, government officials, professors, researchers and both university and high school students.
The UN Day commenced on Tuesday afternoon with brief remarks by Dr. Hamaguchi, President of Nagoya University, Dr. Ito, Dean of Graduate School of International Development, Mr. Hirata, representative of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and Dr. Okada, Professor of the Graduate School of International Development. Ms. Kaoru Nemoto then delivered a keynote lecture on the theme "Gender Equality is your issue too!". Deriving from her experiences of growing up in West Germany and her struggles as a professional woman in Japan, she had to overcome various forms of gender discrimination such as working comparatively harder than her male counterparts to attain similar acknowledgements. Quoting from the Global Gender Gap Index where Japan lags behind various countries in terms of gender equality, she points out the necessity of further promoting women's participation in both the private and public sphere.
Subsequently, a poll session on gender equality was carried out by student representatives of different nationalities. Questions raised include the accessibility of healthcare for women, priorities in access to education, presence of women leaders and if there are more male academicians than female ones in their respective countries. Half of the representatives answered yes towards the accessibility of education and healthcare for women, a minority of representatives answered yes towards the presence of women leaders in their countries, and all of the representatives answered yes in agreeing that there are more male than female academicians in their countries. Consequently, this poll session has reflected the prevalence of gender inequality in each society and the stark lack of representation of female leaders and academicians in the global context.
In order to address the disparity as shown and described in the poll session, the next section of the event was a heated debate session on whether quotas should be set towards achieving gender equality. The proposition side noted the gender inequality in leadership positions, that it is vital to have women leaders to represent society's interests, and quotas will be able to achieve equality by encouraging women's active participation in the public sphere. On the other hand, the opposition claimed that the quota system itself is contradictory within the notion of equality, disregards the importance of electing leaders as according to merit, and that "strong women do not need to hide behind quotas". Both teams exhibited great scholarship through adopting unique strategies of their own, and the discussion of the debate was even extended to the coffee break with members of the audience eagerly discussing their point of views. Panel discussions presided by notable figures from the United Nations were also carried out after the coffee break to further reflect on points raised during the debate and offered insights into issues faced in the process of achieving gender equality.
The evening closed with the Joint Outreach Mission at Nagoya University, which was the first UN career seminar held outside of Tokyo. The event was participated by the United Nations Secretariat, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Parallel to the theme of the UN day, each representative presented the United Nations as an organization that provides for workplace equality by striving to maintain a 50/50 ratio in all employments. The representatives too explained the perks of their mission and job responsibilities, pathways towards becoming an international civil servant by pursuing a career in the United Nations, and also raised the possibility of collaborating with Nagoya University to provide internship opportunities to our students.
Overall, the UN Day at Nagoya University had succeeded in raising awareness among the participants on the current issues and efforts towards achieving gender equality. As quoted by United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, "Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone's responsibility." There is much to be done towards creating a more peaceful and just world, and we are glad that Nagoya University has taken another major step towards becoming the leader in societal transformation and progress.
Reported By: Qi Jun KWONG
4th year, School of Law, Nagoya University