World Student Christian Federation - Asia-Pacific Region (WSCF-AP)
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Regional Programme

Joint Women’s Programme:
RWP - Student YMCA and SCM Japan

“Violence against Women: Going beyond Gender Analysis”

March 6-8, 2011
Tokyo, Japan
RWP - Student YMCA and SCM Japan Joint Miriam Program

This Joint Women’s Programme was organized in collaboration with the Miriam programme of the Student YMCA and SCM Japan. Miriam programme is an ongoing programme on women’s concerns in SCM Japan. Around 12 women and 3 men from Student YMCA and SCM Japan participated in the workshop.  There were 3 main objectives:

  1. To revive/renew the Miriam programme to make it more wholistic space for women;
  2. To understand the issues / factors of VAW for the purpose of going beyond gender analysis;
  3. To re read the Bible together from the feminist perspectives.

Sunita Suna – regional women’s coordinator, Misato Sasaki – women’s programme coordinator of Student YMCA and SCM Japan, Azusa Nakamura, Kaori – senior friends of SCM Japan facilitated the workshop. The workshop started with an opening worship led by Misato conducted few exercises to know each other. Sunita briefly shared about WSCF and the relation of WSCF and YMCA, the role and contribution of women leadership in the federation and the importance of the Regional Women’s Programme in WSCF AP.

Misato explained why and how the Miriam program started and how we can make this space more wholistic for women. Azus and Kaori shared their experiences of their involvement with the Miriam programme. They said, Miriam programme has played a significant role in their lives as well as many women in SCM Japan. This is a space for the young women to come and share their stories/ experiences which has helped them to develop different perspectives and be analytical on various issues especially on women. They suggested that its important to keep this space for women and setup network with women in need.

RWP - Student YMCA and SCM Japan Joint Miriam ProgramSunita facilitated the session on understanding gender and the need of going beyond gender. The participants shared their own understanding of gender, then Sunita did a brief analysis of how gender role plays differently for women and men. She said, gender is a social, cultural, religious construction and we women and men are constructed beings. Gender is binary to put women and men in two different categories with specific expectations. In order to understand the many-sided factors of VAW we need to go beyond gender analysis to understand the issues of intersectionality and the power dynamics. The participants shared some of their own experiences as women and discussed some real stories of VAW in the context of Japan and analyzed the causes of VAW in their own context. Sunita also explained the power relation of domination and subordination. She said gender analysis always project men controlling over women, and that is the fact in most of our societies but it doesn’t explain how culture, tradition, religion, class, caste, race, ethnicity, patriarchy, hierarchy, nationality, education, age, power dynamics etc are involved.

Sunita facilitated a Bible study on the text – Genesis – 16:1-6 (the story of Sara, Hagar and Abram). They were divided in small groups to read the text together and discuss on the following guide questions: 1. Identify the socio-cultural, religious beliefs which has influenced the lives of Sara, Hagar and Abram and to your life; 2. Briefly analyse the power relation among Sara, Hagar and Abram.

The participants tried to relate the story with the present experience of women and the societal expectation for women and men. They said, women are compelled to prove their motherhood by giving birth and  they must produce son! Even in this story they are caught up with the gender roles and societal and religious expectations. Sunita explained the hierarchy and the power relation of domination and subordination in this story. She said there are different power relation between Abram, Sara and Hagar. Abram being the patriarch, his position is on the top and Sara being the wife of Abram exercising her power over Hagar the slave girl. There is a power relation of domination and subordination. And power also can be changed like Hagar’s pregnancy changed her status for some time. This also shows that society has accepted motherhood is the central part of women’s lives. She said, power domination can be exercised between men and women, women and men, men and men or women and women.

This JWP was a beginning to initiate more activities on various issues on women. Especially the issues the Japanese women are facing in their own context.