Objective of our activities
Established in 2016 with the aim of helping girls lead lives free from oppression and prejudice, Kyoto Wakakusa Network is a non-profit NGO that works in partnership with civil society groups and the public sector. We work towards addressing problems faced by girls and young women, and offer them support and aid in difficult situations through the use of our shelter and other facilities.
Operating from the perspective of rehabilitation and protection, and guided by the belief that “people can recover only through relationships with others”, we are trying to build a relationship based on trust with the girls in the community.
Our objectives are as follows:
1. Support girls through communication and consultation
2. Set up a “Wakakusa Café” in four locations, to be used as a temporary shelter by girls in need of refuge
3. Increase the number of enlightened adults whom the girls can trust
A Prevailing Japanese Cultural Belief
that People Should Take Responsibility for Their Hardships
Rural collectivism has been part of the Japanese consciousness since olden times. Japanese people in the past had the spirit of mutual aid; however, they were also quick to criticize anyone who did not conform to societal norms. As time went by, the number of rural communities dwindled, leading to weakened intergenerational connections. As a result, the belief that seeking help must be avoided as much as possible has become deeply ingrained in many people and continues to prevail to this day. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that many find themselves unable to escape hardship and adversity.
Difficulties Endured by Women in Isolation
1. Misogynistic attitudes and objectification not only contribute to the prevalence of sex crimes, but also place pressure on women to perform sex work and increase their vulnerability to abuse by conditioning them to equate their self-worth with sex.
2. Many are struggling to maintain work-life balance as they pursue a career while also shouldering the full responsibility of caring for the home.
3. A staggering 50.8% of female-headed single-parent households fall under the “relative poverty” category.
Girls with broken self-esteem and scars, both visible and invisible
- They lack confidence and a reliable support system; are given no second chances; have no dreams; suffer from trauma; and are viewed with judgment.
- Of the G7 countries, Japan has the highest suicide rate among young people.
Condition of Administrative Support
As a matter of fact, recourse for young people doesn’t reach girls’ life. Also, their SOS signals don’t be carryied to the public administration. The public assistance system is not a support exclusively focused on young people but rather a minimal support to sustain people’s life.
Needs for girls
What kind of support do girls need right now?
* Systems that don’t discriminate against those from different backgrounds
* A society that works together to tackle social issues
* A culture that doesn’t mandate conformity
* Aid for single-parent families to reduce economic and educational gaps
Strong Points of Kyoto Wakakusa Network
1. Girls can express themselves without hesitation.
2. We respect the rights of each and every person and draw out individuality and character.
3. Recognizing that friendship knows no age, we facilitate connections between people from different generations.
4. We work in solidarity with our local partners.
5. We help girls who cannot be reached by the current system.
6. Everyone can get involved in a variety of ways; plus, we identify ways to overcome limitations in existing relationships between supporters and those in need of support.
working with partners to provide safe spaces for girls
recognizing the individual needs of each girl
Personalized Support for Individuals
- In 2019, we put in a total of 476.5 hours, and were able to support 11 girls.
- Protection against abuse came in the forms of counseling, giving public assistance, helping find accommodation like hostels and houses, among others.
At the girls’ request, we have organized activities and workshops geared towards:
- allowing them to develop a deeper understanding of themselves
- offering support for those taking official exams in the form of study sessions, and application and funding counseling, etc.
- giving them opportunities to learn skills in communication, computer use, mental care, and aromatherapy
-letting them experience seasonal events
3．Nurturing / Developing
- Nurturing the Dreams of Girls
For girls to get a better understanding of themselves and what they want to do in the future, they need to feel accepted for who they are by those around them and by society at large. Wakakusa Network provides girls an environment where they can tackle every challenge they meet and go after their dreams, without being afraid of failure.
- Adopting a Circular Support Model for a Sustainable Organization
Although they start out mainly as recipients of support, girls gradually take on a more active role by becoming aid providers themselves. In Wakakusa Network, girls are encouraged to see themselves as also being capable of helping others, and to not let being a victim define who they are. Wakakusa provides opportunities for girls to face themselves, including being able to consult with and learn from communication specialists. They acquire the mind-set and skills needed to take care of themselves, and are then able to show others compassion. Each girl has the potential to become a valuable role model to others by developing herself in the network.
- Developing Reliable and Unprejudiced Adults
We work with adults to help them discard harmful stereotypes, so they can view the youth, not through the lens of conventional standards, but with an open mind. By increasing the number of sympathetic supporters, girls will have an easier time integrating into society.
Wakakusa built its empowerment network so that girls undergoing hardships can develop the initiative to take action and become socially independent. It is imperative that girls learn to be proactive in tackling whatever problems they encounter. Administrative support for girls must be cohesive instead of being divided into sections: employment, education, and social welfare.
In cooperation with public organizations, the concerned bodies, other NPOs, volunteers, and private companies, Wakakusa Network has succeeded in establishing that structure required to achieve three functions: connecting, comforting, and fostering.
At this moment, girls in difficulties are not empowered enough due to insufficient support. This project aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of establishing local supporting networks and propose future policies to national and local governments.
What is the Kyoto Wakakusa Network
When girls and young women feel out of place or uneasy at home, school, or work, where can they escape?
In many cases, they are fortunate to have good friends and new workplaces that support them well. However, there are also cases where insecure girls with no means to survive themselves and no money, get involved in delinquency, crime, or in the worst-case scenario, lose their lives.
Kyoto Wakakusa Network is a non-profit NGO established in 2016 with the aim of helping girls to lead freedom from oppression, prejudice, and any negative pressures. We work with other civil society organizations and public sectors to set up space, shelters, and other facilities for girls within the Kyoto prefecture. It opens its doors to all girls in difficult situations, welcomes them, and attempts to support and help them.
From the perspective of rehabilitation, the first step is to create an environment where the girls can stand by each other, in other words, to build trust based on the belief that "people can only recover through interpersonal relationships."
Act for the Prevention of Recidivism enacted in 2016 for a legal foundation for "support for cohabitation," but there are also limitations and challenges in the informal support of local communities that the Ministry of Justice and other public sectors are trying to cooperate with. This is due to the aging of the people who support the local community, the weakening of human relationships, and the rigidity of the rehabilitation system.
In light of the current state of the support system, the Kyoto Wakakusa Network hopes to create a new "collaborative model" in the community and respond flexibly to the complex and difficult problems faced by girls by building continuing human relationships that the public sector can not support. Complex and difficult problems include abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault, which are difficult to identify. It takes a long time for the girls who are victims to speak out about their inner wounds, but we hope to prevent their isolation and create a society where all girls can live their lives with dignity, confidence, and a sense of self-esteem.
Dr. Rieko Hayakawa, Law-School, Doshisha University