NEWS

Working Together For
Women's Empowerment.



Art as a protest and expression was the focal theme of the latest biannual event held by WomEnpowered International. On 24th July, an interactive online session was held which presented the perspectives of WE Int member, Serah Alabi’s, academic and artistic work as a Tokyo-based photographer and writer.


Serah is actively involved in exploring the intersections of race and gender through art, evident in her exhibitions: “Black & Beautiful: Black Women’s Voices in Japan” held at UltraSuperNew gallery in Harajuku and “The Grey Area: Between Sexuality and Identity” at The Hive, Tokyo.  She is also the co-founder of 8:46, an organization operating events in support of Black Lives Matter in Tokyo.


The conversation led us through Serah’s professional work as well as her more personal experiences. She discussed the intricacies of the patriarchal male gaze in photography depicting women as passive objects to be viewed to satisfy the appetites of men. The focal point of the discussion however, was centred around her interest in creating a platform for the female gaze. An evolving concept that intends to capture the diversity of female identities and challenge the patriarchal stereotype. The conversation was enriched with examples from the work of Araki Nobuyoshi, Mari Katayama and Kennedi Carter among other photographers.



Later, participants were all invited to put on their creative hats and take part in the art of visual storytelling. We divided into groups and we were all set the challenge of curating a conceptual photograph that captured a message or story by employing various photographic techniques. Individuals took on the roles of model, photographer or artistic advisor, and members were given 10 minutes to collaboratively come up with an image.



The final part of the event involved a discussion on all the images that the different teams created and a Q&A session with Serah. In light of the recent Black Lives Movement, Serah also shared some businesses we could support to take part in the movement ourselves. What a way to connect, move and build awareness about the intention, emotion and power behind photography!


Images by Serah Alabi

Some POC creatives you can support in Tokyo:

On Saturday, August 1, WomEnpowered International, We Speak Equality, and enjoi Diversity and Innovation Consulting co-hosted “Addressing Gender Inequality in the Tech Industry.”


We invited five panelists who worked in the tech industry to share their experiences of gender inequality and passion for making the industry a more diverse space. Following an inspiring opening remark by Jackie F. Steele, CEO of enjoi D&I Consulting, the panel addressed three questions:

  1. What kind of gender inequality have the panelists experienced?

  2. What factors are causing, enhancing, or reproducing the inequalities?

  3. Why do we need to achieve gender equality in the first place?


Please view our amazing panelists respond to each question and additional questions from the audience.


The panel discussion was followed by a networking session through Zoom “breakout rooms.” Each group consisted of three to four people and allowed the panelists and audience to dive deeper into the topic of gender inequality, share their personal experiences and feelings, and build new friendships.


We concluded the event with introducing key takeaways from the panelists, which are introduced below.

“To the women who are afraid that tech is a ‘mens’ industry- actually the person who's considered the first programmer is a woman and in the past you can find many inspiring women leading the industry and making innovations. So even though now the image of a programmer shifted to being a man I hope that the more woman will join the tech industry the sooner we can change this image back to being more diverse.” - Ania Nakayama



“When you try something new, you carry with you experiences that make your contributions unique and valuable. If you haven’t, take those baby steps to pick up tech skills. It will be more than just an opportunity to grow. It means joining the fray—challenging what it means to be a woman, to be a programmer, and holding the industry to higher standards.”

- Christine Yong






“Don’t stop to look out for all career paths that may be possible and don’t be afraid to take on paths that are unknown. Besides coding, the tech industry offers so many possibilities for female leaders to prove themselves and make tech a better place to work at.” - Milan Ngyuen






"We need to understand the power of men in gender equality. It’s more effective when we have the entire workforce pushing towards making our industry more inclusive." - Shirley Kotian









“If you have a female friend who wants to try out coding, encourage her. If there is a young girl who wants to build her own digital game, tell her she can do it! If your mom tells you that she is not “tech savvy” tell her it’s never too late. Believe in the people around you so they can believe in themselves.” - Tsuyoshi Domoto




Today, our world is going through a rapid and extensive digital transformation, and diversifying the pool of talents in the tech industry is becoming a pressing issue. This event was an opportunity to start a conversation around this issue, and to deliver young voices and requests for leaders and companies to change their directions, in order to create a more diverse, inclusive, and innovative digital space.


We are planning to hold a second event in November, which will address the root causes of and possible solutions to gender inequality in the industry. Stay tuned!


Last Friday evening, WomEnpowered International, with the support of the Mexican Embassy in Japan, held an interactive online workshop on the topic of gender-based violence and sexual harassment. 


Given the rise in incidents of domestic violence and gender-based violence in the era of COIVD-19, WE Int. felt it was important to come together to discuss this pressing issue, whose global prevalence qualifies it as its own global pandemic. In fact, the WHO cites that 1 in 3 women will experience gender-based violence, and an NPR survey in 2018 found that 80% of women have experienced verbal sexual harassment in their lifetimes. 


We were honored to begin the workshop with a special message from Mexican Ambassador to Japan, HE Melba Pria, herself a lifetime advocate for marginalized communities, who graced us with this warm and inspiring message about the importance of the “El Tendedero” (“The Clothesline”)  project:


We were also very fortunate to be able to speak with the original artist of the “El Tendedero” project, Ms. Monica Mayer, who first began the interactive art installation in Mexico City in 1978.

Her aim in starting the project was to spark conversation and bring to light the fact that harassment and gender-based violence, while typically couched in shame and stigma,  should not be accepted as normal-even if it is so massively wide-spread.

She noted that the project “brings precisely all these different tones of experiences together that show a portrait of what happens socially from our individual experiences.”


Indeed, one workshop participant remarked that she “found the El Tendedero project to be simple but very powerful in bringing people from different places together and encouraging them to break their silence by sharing their personal stories. The project made me reflect upon sexual harassment in public, domestic violence, and other gender inequalities faced by the women in my country, Myanmar, and allowed me to think about what I could do from this time forward.”

Ms. Mayer herself recalled the first time that she experienced harassment on the street as a young girl of just 8 years old, and through this project she learned that her experience was not rare or unique. 


With “El Tendedero” installations having traveled around the world, from Latin America to North America and all the way to Asia, the global scale of this problem was evident from the stories of the women whose experiences she has anonymously gathered through this work of art. The stories were so numerous that many of them have been catalogued and studied by researchers. 


In order to better understand the situation of gender-based violence in Japan, we were joined by Ms.Ikemoto, a student of art history and a more recent budding activist on the issue of gender-based violence and gender equality in the art world in Japan. Ms. Ikemoto, having participated in a version of “El Tendedero” with Ms. Mayer at the Aichi Triennale in 2019, talked to us about the importance of such projects in progressing and changing the narrative around feminism and feminist expression in conservative Japan.


At the Triennale, one of the largest festivals of contemporary art in Japan, Ms. Ikemoto experienced both support from other festival guests as well as criticisms and pushback for their “El Tendedero” installation. After another exhibit on the topic of WWII “comfort women” was censored by the directors of the festival, Ms. Mayer and Ms. Ikemoto, along with other artists, protested the censorship by transforming the regular “El Tendedero” into one that reflected this silencing of voices. 



However, even today, Ms. Ikemoto is still active in generating awareness of these issues here in Japan, having also held “Flower demonstrations” to protest against the acquittals of perpetrators of sex crimes in Japan. Fortunately, such efforts have caught the attention of the government, who has recently adopted more robust measures to combat harassment and sexual violence in Japan.


At the end of the event, participants were able to breakout into smaller groups, where they could discuss other experiences with misogyny/sexism and harassment, the problem of victim blaming, and the role of institutions and culture in perpetuating gender-based violence and harassment.

Reflecting upon her experience at the workshop, one participant said,

“I feel many voices are still unheard, stories are untold, and silences keep destroying the dreams of women in all different corners of the world. Monica Mayer and The Clothesline project encourages me to not stay still, but to keep breaking silences by participating in empowering movements in the society I belong to as much possible in order to bring about a better world with zero sexual harassment and violence.”

WomEnpowered International is grateful for the participation of the Mexican Embassy, Ms. Mayer, Ms. Ikemoto, and all the attendees at this event. We are committed to continuing this important conversation through maintaining our online El Tendedero and continuing to collect responses and post them on our blog so that we may remind all survivors that, while experiences of violence and harassment can be devastating, you are not alone.


 We stand with you in solidarity, fighting for a world of justice and equality for all women.



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