Report of the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation Visit - Prior to the opening of the Peace Memorial Museum of the Comfort Women and Women’s Rights

This December, a museum will open in Taiwan that retains the history for the purpose of resolving the Taiwan’s comfort women issue. Prior to this, I had an opportunity on September 4 to visit the Taipei Womens Rescue Foundation that was in preparation of the museum and to interview its representative, Ms. Shu Hua Kang and its international public relations staff, Ms. Shuang-shuang Sandra Keng.

Taiwan’s Comfort Women Issue
The Foundation was established in 1987 setting out to stop trafficking girls for prostitution which they were forced into due to poverty. Since then, the Foundation has dealt with DV issues and, in 1992, started engaging in activities to resolve Taiwan’s comfort women issue.

Representative, Ms. Kang (right) and Ms. Keng

The fact not so well-known in Japan is that many Taiwanese women were also forced to comfort Japanese soldiers during World War II. The estimated number of those women is approximately 2,000.
Since 1992, the female victims (like halmeoni in Korean, they are called ah-ma in Chinese which means grandmother) have spoken out and the number reached 58 by 1996. Many of them have passed away by now and there are only 6 survivors. The oldest of them turns 92.
Remained documents prove that women were recruited back then by the government office in Taiwan under Japan’s control and indicate the Imperial Army’s arrangement for transportation for the women. The Japanese government’s involvement in this matter has been clearly proved, however, all trials that demanded the Japanese government for apology and compensation to comfort women so far were lost. Still, the ah-ma say they are not lost at heart.
The ah-ma and their supporters have had public protests on every August 15 in front of the exchange association (an alternative to the embassy). Although the Foundation and supporters have been the only protesters for the last 4 years due to aging of the ah-ma, they did hand over a protest to the association staff. Starting next year, the protest day will be switched to August 14 as it became the memorial day for comfort women.

Mental Care
Taiwanese ah-ma refused the compensation offered by the Asian Women’s Fund in Japan because an apology by the Japanese government was all they wanted.
The Taiwanese government has not raised an official protest against the Japanese government but has offered livelihood aid to the ah-ma. The Foundation staff have supported the ah-ma treating every one of them sincerely.
The Foundation has particularly put an effort on mental care.
The Foundation and supporters have offered over 70 workshops for the ah-ma who were physically and psychologically hurt as young and had lots of hardships even after that. Creating an opportunity for the ah-ma to enjoy singing, dancing, and drawing pictures, and also speak out their memories helps them to bring out their anger against the Japanese government as well as their harsh fate, and also to heal their pain in heart. Some workshops gave an opportunity to put on a wedding dress to the ah-ma who gave up on marriage for the past that they had no choice but to become comfort women.
There was also a project to make the ah-ma’s dreams come true. Their dreams such as serving as a police officer or mail carrier for a day became real in the project. Behind those dreams was the adoration of the ah-ma who took care of laundry at the police department over 20 years or who longed to be a mail carrier because the occupation was a civil servant and required a reading skill.
These activities show that the Foundation has supported every ah-ma’s life staying closely with their heart, which is quite impressive. These activities are no longer possible as the surviving ah-ma are quite old; however, counselors are still remaining a strong support for the ah-ma by visiting their homes individually.

The Foundation
The Foundation has also made a significant contribution to the revisions of laws in regards to violence against women and children. The executive board members of the Foundation are female activists and lawyers. Some woman started off with the activities at the Foundation and ended up as the legal director of the government. The Foundation’s strength is the connection with politics and laws. There are 50 staff members total and many of them are still young. Upon our visit, too, over 10 young staff members were working with their PCs at their individual booth in the Foundation office. These staff members are not volunteers but are paid the salary almost equal to the amount a university graduate with no career experience would usually receive in Taiwan. This made both my accompanied graduate student and me pretty envious. The Foundation is operated by the government assistance and donations. It made my wish for such a powerful women’s movement even stronger.

The Foundation staff
For the Museum Opening in December
The Peace Memorial Museum for the Comfort Women and Women’s Rights are surely getting ready for its opening on this December 10 (the World Human Rights Day). President Ma Ying-jeou is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony.
“The success of this museum is the first challenge,” says Ms. Kang. They wish the museum to be a training ground that hands down the history to the next generation and shows the history from a global viewpoint. It will contribute to prevent violence against women as well as wartime sexual violence.
“For the development, peace, and safety for women” – this is the motto of the Foundation.

Representative Kang next to the sign of “No More DV!”

Through the visit to the Foundation, I was quite impressed with their powerful activities by sincerely staying close with female victims including comfort women. My wish now is even stronger for WAN to play a role in the global solidarity of women and strengthening of women’s rights.

Please visit the Foundation’s website which is also available in English (http://www.twrf.org.tw/index.asp) and the website of Taiwan’s Virtual Museum on Sexual Slavery by Japanese Military which is also available in Japanese (http://www.womandpeace.org.tw/www_jp/index.html). Furthermore, with the Foundation’s cooperation, the special exhibition “Taiwan “Comfort Women” Testimonies: How Ah-ma were Made into Japanese” is underway at the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM) in Waseda, Tokyo until June 2014. (For details, see http://wam-peace.org/.)

WAN is planning to cover a story about the December museum opening on our website*.
*Note: The museum opening has been postponed to mid-2014. 

Original article on the WAN website:  http://wan.or.jp/reading/?p=12210
translated and adapted by K. Moriya.


Current Concept of Worldwide Women’s Action Network (W-WAN)

The Worldwide Women’s Action Network (W-WAN) has started an English-language blog  (http://worldwide-wan.blogspot.com/ ) since September 2011.  

The launch of this project was summer 2010 when I got an email from the current Chief Director of Women’s Action Network (WAN), Chizuko Ueno.  She wrote, “I want to make an English version of WAN.  I want to get non-Japanese speakers to know that, in Japan, there is a unique website like WAN.” 

I found it meaningful and promising.  I was curious, too.  I was working on an interesting translation project at that time, through which I recognized a trend to transmit voices in Japan beyond Japanese-speaking world via English.  So, in reply to her I said, “Okay, let’s try.”

We called our new-born project as English WAN (E-WAN) at first.  Yet, two months later, fall in 2011, we decided to change it into Worldwide-WAN (W-WAN).  Why?

At the very first meeting for the project, I murmured, “Our objective is to deliver Japanese women’s voices beyond Japanese-speaking world, in other words, give voice to Japanese women who are almost voiceless now in English-speaking world.  And simply for this, we would employ English language to make a blog because it is the dominant language in the today’s world.  In a way, I’m not very comfortable to call it English WAN.” 

Agreeing with me in full flood, Ueno started to explore alternative ideas.  By the time the meeting was over, we decided to name it Worldwide WAN instead of English.

Using English language, which is for the overdog in large part from global and historical perspectives, we deliver Japanese women’s voices who try to connect via WAN, that is, voices of the underdog who need to be connected.  

Although joined by skillful members using English language for work in some way, we never go for native speakers English.  Our priority is not given to become or copy the overdog.

To create and deliver voices which would be unheard if letting it lie, we now take others’ language and embark on this challenging project – for even further sisterhood between the strong and the weak divided by the past and current world order.  We would be pleased if you could understand our concept and goal, hear the voice, and cooperate in sharing it. 

Originally written in Japanese in December 2011, and then written in English in December 2013 by Shin Yamaaki, W-WAN founding chief. 



Chernobyl Children’s Fund Made a 2014 Benefit Calendar for Children in Chernobyl and Fukushima

Photo by Ryuichi Hirokawa

The 2014 Calendar for Children in Chernobyl and Fukushima (28th Anniversary) consists of pictures of children in Chernobyl and Fukushima who are spending time at sanatoriums. The following photo for the month of March shows children from Fukushima who are playing energetically with their hands and feet in the sand without caring about radiation. Some of them were born after March 11, so it is the first time for them to enjoy the ocean.

The Chernobyl Children’s Fund has supported the people in the devastated area of Chernobyl since 1991, and it has made a charity calendar every year since 1996. After the nuclear accident at Fukushima on March 11, 2011, the foundation received many responses from people in Chernobyl, well-wishing the children in Japan. The 2013 and 2014 Calendar for Children in Chernobyl include pictures and poems written by children in Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Besides the calendar, the Funds also sells postcards, books and so on. The proceeds are used for medical and relief expenses for children.

Price: 1000 yen
Mailing Cost: 100 yen (up to 2 copies)
             Actual price (3 to 9 copies)
             Free shipping (more than 10 copies)
Payment: Postal Transfer 
                   (Name of the Account) Chernobyl Children's Fund, Japan
                   (Postal Transfer Number) 00160-4-98316 (Transfer in Japan)

☆The Chernobyl Children Fund☆
Fouder/Adviser HIROKAWA Ryuichi
Email: cherno1986@tokyo.email.ne.jp
URL: http://homepage2.nifty.com/chernobyl_children/index-e.html
Office: 207 Maison de Hara, 25 Shirogane-cho, Shinjuku-ku,
            Tokyo 162-0816 Japan
Tel /Fax: 81-3-5228-2680

☆HIROKAWA Ryuichi Photo Exhibition Office☆
Since April 1991 photo exhibitions have been held at more than 700 different places in Japan. From May 1997 pictures drawn by Chernobyl children are also lent out for exhibitions. (From the Fund's website)

Original Article on the WAN Website (November 26, 2013)
Translated and Adapted by Naoko Uchibori


What’s New on WAN’s Website as of November 24, 2013

“Being Invited to Parlament der Generationen by Germany’s Ministry of Education and Science”
Written by FUCHS, Mariko

Book Review 
Social History of Sanitary Goods: From Taboo to Major Business
Authored by TANAKA Hikaru
Published by Miminerva Shobo (August 25, 2013)

Activity Report for Preventing Cognitive Impairment No.5
“Responding to the Needs of Highly-aging Society: Ten Year History and the Future Outlook of NPO Cognitive Impairment Prevention Net”
Written by TAKABAYASHI Miyuki

Call for Activity Photos
Photos Showing Various Regional Activities toward the Week  (November 12 – 25, 2013) for Eliminating Violence to Women Wanted!
Visit the site below to see the slide show of last year’s photos.

Posted by FUKUOKA A.A.


Child Abuse and the Poverty of Women

(From translator) In this article, author Haru Sugiyama explains two of her own books on child abuse. 

Abuse: Two abandoned children in Osaka
Author: Haru Sugiyama
Publisher: Chikuma Shobo (September, 2013)
Hardcover (265pages)

In the summer of 2010, two children, aged three and one, were found lying on top of each other, starved to death in a studio apartment near the Minami downtown district of Osaka. Their mother was a sex worker who worked at a sex-related parlour nearby. For fifty days, she did not return to her children, and was staying with a male acquaintance. On SNS (social networking services), she posted photos of herself on outings with her friends from her hometown of Yokkaichi, and of herself having fun at a club in Osaka.

Six months after the incident came to light, I met with the mother, Ms. Mei (an alias) in the reception room of the headquarters of the Osaka Prefectural Police Department. She thanked me for leaving offerings of sweets at the Buddhist altar for the children’s spirits. She was a calm young mother you would see anywhere. At the time of her marriage, Ms. Mei was a responsible family woman who made appropriate use of public support and was involved in establishing a mother’s club.

Ms. Mei divorced, left the house with the children, and moved several times to within the Mie Prefecture, Nagoya, then to Osaka, until her children died a grisly death. It was a mere year and a number of months. During that time, there was next to no contact from the children’s father, nor did he provide any financial support.

I approached administrative organizations which were involved in this case, and all of them appeared disturbed at Ms. Mei’s actions, stating, “This was something you would never see,” or “This was our first time experiencing something like this.”

Ms. Mei was sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment.

Neglect: Why did Mana die?
Author: Haru Sugiyama
Publisher: Shogakukan (November 2004)
Hardcover (253 pages)

In 2000, a three-year-old girl starved to death in a cardboard box in a company dormitory of a large steel manufacturer in Taketoyo Town, Aichi Prefecture. Based on the research I did for this case, I wrote Neglect: Why did Mana die? (Grand Prize Winner of Shogakukan Bunko Shogakukan Non-fiction Prize).

Mana’s mother was a housewife, and the incident took place in the family home. Ten years later, the mother and child isolated themselves and drifted. Her children eventually died.
The concept of gender for Japanese people has changed greatly in the past 20 years. Single-mother families have exploded in numbers since the mid-1990s. In the workplace, non-permanent employment has become the norm. Under the surface, great changes have been taking place in Japanese society.

Poverty in women is directly related to poverty in children. Ever since the Lehman shock in autumn of 2008, there has been an increase in young mothers with young children. These mothers have nothing to take pride in apart from their status as mothers; once they are cornered into harsh situations, they often turn on their children, whom they tend to mistakenly think of as their property.

When considering what will bring happiness to a child, it is important that mothers are allowed to step back from child-rearing. If it at least becomes commonly accepted that mothers are not the ones solely responsible for child-rearing, this can lead to happiness of many children.
What has become clear to me in writing this book is that abuse is a problem of discrimination. If values dictate that only the worthy will survive, and if these values become rampant, abuse will only become a more severe problem.

Since April, I myself have been involved in supporting children who are growing up in impoverished households. There are little Ms. Meis everywhere. And I am surprised at this reality.

I want the mechanisms of abuse to be known across a wider audience. I want to see growth in the kind of support that is deeply knowledgeable of these mechanisms. That is my wish. (Haru Sugiyama, author of this book)

Original article in Japanese on Wan's website.
Translated and adapted by Shana Rieko Shimizu and Naoko Hirose