THE EARTH TIMES
FEBRUARY 11, 1994
‘Health education targeted at women’
By Ashali Varma
Yoriko Meguro is Professor of Sociology at Sophia University in Tokyo. She is also one of the Founding Members of Japan’s Network for Women and Health, Cairo ‘94. The Network consists of a coalition of 90 Japanese NGOs interested in women’s health issues and was created to enable them to participate in the International Conference on Population and Development, (ICPD). In a recent interview with The Earth Times in Tokyo, Professor Meguro spoke about the needs and aspirations of Japanese women.
What role do you see Japanese women NGOs playing at ICPD?
As Dr. Sadik explained at a meeting with us, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is very eager to have the participation of NGOs in the Cairo Conference. We can play a vital role, especially if some of us are included in the government delegation and have a voice in the proceedings. Japan is an important contributor to Official Development Assistant (ODA) but the direction of the ODA policies has not been in the interest of women. There has been little concern for the overall health of women. Women are the target of population policies but not the major decision makers, which they should have been. So women NGOs must make themselves heard because our government has not been made aware of the importance of this issue.
When did you establish Japan’s Network for Women and Health, Cairo ‘94, and why did you feel it was necessary to form this umbrella organization for Japanese NGOs?
We started the Network on Dec 4, 1993. The organizing members have been quite active in different areas regarding women’s issues. We felt that as far as ICPD was concerned, we actually no information from our government and had not been involved so far.
As we kept learning about the involvement of NGOs from other parts of the world in the ICPD process, we realized we were really behind in preparations for this Conference. Since there were no women NGOs dealing with this particular issue, we felt we had to get organized. Therefore we got together and started a dialogue and realized we didn’t have much time as the deadline for NGO participation for Cairo was in mid January of this year.
What are your priorities concerning ICPD?
We still have a lot to discuss. But one of our priorities is to suggest that Japan’s ODA and financial commitments be used towards health education that is directly targeted at women as well as men in developing countries. There should be a comprehensive community development plan which includes family planning, health education and overall health care for families. What we would like to see happen is a shift in the population policy, not to narrow it down to just family planning but to include the health of individuals. We would also like to see empowerment in the decision making process of the poor, and the women and the disabled.
Another urgent priority is to have our opinions reflected in the government recommendations.
The Japanese NGO agenda is :
- Tospread and publicize the concept of reproductive health within Japan
- To ensure that the Japanese government’s national report reflects accurately the opinions of Japanese women.
- To participate in the NGO forum in Cairo.
- To ensure that women NGO members are included in the government delegation to ICPD.
- To establish domestic and international solidarity with concerned women’s NGOs both within Japan and overseas.