August 31 - September 1, 2006
The Miriam Project is an annual women’s programme for SCMers in Japan, especially for new members to the SCM and the 1st year undergraduates. The programme for this year’s Miriam Project addresses the topic on Gender Sensitivity and the aims are:
This workshop has a total of 12 participants and most of them are young women leaders of the SCM Japan, especially for the Miriam Project. The facilitator of this workshop is Yock Leng, WSCF AP Regional Women’s Coordinator.
Following that, Yock Leng, gave an input on Gender Analysis, challenging the participants to critique on the social and cultural constructions of women and men. The session continued with the participants working on an exercise to reflect and share on the impacts and influences in their lives that shape their worldviews on gender issues. This exercise created a space for the participants to confidently speak about themselves, something that is rare to women in Japanese culture and society.
The next session was led by three women who shared their life experiences in the decisions that they made regarding their involvement with people-oriented projects. Azusa Nakamura shared on the impact of her participation in WSCF AP programmes that motivated her to be actively involved in an NGO that works with people who either voluntarily or involuntary choose not to have official residency. This involvement encourages her to reflect on the importance of human relationship in this era of free market system that emphasizes on social statuses and class. Nariko Fukuda shared on her experience as an intern in the Bangkok YMCA where she learned of the struggles of women living in poverty. Her one-year internship imparted valuable lessons in life as she, now as an active senior member of Miriam and the committee member of WSCF AP Regional Women’s Committee, imparts to other students the lessons she learned with the women in Thailand. Sayori Matsui shared on her resistance to her parents’ wish for her to work in the church, and her desire to make her own career decision. Sayori is currently the main coordinator of the Miriam Project and it is her dream to be actively involved in students’ work. These three different experiences gave the participants new insights on the alternatives one could choose to make in their lives, while not necessarily being compelled by the demands of culture and society to conform to and follow rigid cultural, social and political conventions.
The night session closed with intimate and reflective discussions on marriage, love and relationships in Japanese culture and society. The discussions centred on the illusions fostered by the media and commercial industries, as well as the limited concepts of family and relationships practised by Japanese culture and society, where deviance from the norm is frowned upon.
The morning session started with an input on Systemic Analysis facilitated by Yock Leng. Systemic Analysis is a tool to discern the power structures in the society that create hierarchies and imbalance power relations between people in their identities in the society. Women are usually at the lower end of every hierarchical position in the power structures due to cultural and social constructs. But they can also be at the top of men who experience a lower status in some of the identities that are ranked low in the power structures. Hence, Systemic Analysis enables an explanation of power relations between women and women, men and men, women and men. With the deeper analysis on power relations, we can seek to change power structures externally in society or internally within ourselves.
The participants then worked on an exercise where they were asked to rank the following identities in the context of Japanese society. The identities are: age, education level, job positions, marital status, sexuality, and ethnicity. They were then challenged to discern their own position in the power structures and the alternatives they could make to be transformers of oppression.