Japan elected its first female governor on July 31st 2016, Yuriko Koike, who won by a landslide to become one of the 7 female prefecture governors in the history of Japan.
Yuriko Koike, born in Kyoto, graduated from Cairo University in 1976 with a degree in Sociology and learned English and Arabic. Her father being a politician himself, often reminded her of the importance of keeping a good relationship with Arab countries in order to ensure a stable petroleum supply. She went on to work as an Arabic language interpreter and translator and later became Secretary General of the Japan-Arabic Association.
Since becoming the Governor of Tokyo, she has promised to make significant changes concerning a couple of pertinent issues such as budgeting for the upcoming Olympic Games, better child care and in her opinion, one of the most important, gender equality.
According to the World Bank in 2015, Japan was ranked 111th out of 145 nations in gender equality and Koike has referred to Japan as having a “Steel ceiling” and made known her desire to help the women beneath it, so both women and men can shine.
Koike says she wants to do her best to help women in Japan and Tokyo use their abilities better. She referred to Japan as being a “very homogenous country” and wanting to “challenge the old ways of thinking”, by working on creating more jobs for women, as often times, women are forced to choose between a career and building a family.
“The support made me think deeply that I have a responsibility to work on the issues of waiting lines for day care centers, elderly care and work-life balance.”
In connection to women in the work force, another issue she promised to address is the chronic shortage of available day care centers and the long waiting lists. The term “Hokatsu” referring to the process of parents seeking certified facilities for their children, is prioritized by criteria such as work, marital status and even income, and has been a dreaded process most women face after maternity leave when trying to get back to work. Under the supplementary budget, which Koike called “the first step” to addressing the problem of day care center shortages, 5,000 slots will be added to the previous target of 12,000. She has also drafted a proposal for an additional budget of ¥12.6 billion to provide assistance to operators of child care centers and will ease regulations to make it easier to establish new facilities.
Koike attributes her drive to make changes in this area to the huge female support she got during the elections “The support made me think deeply that I have a responsibility to work on the issues of waiting lines for day care centers, elderly care and work-life balance,” she told reporters.