10 Years from the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing

The 9th National Symposium of Beijing JACK (Japan Accountability Caucus) was held in Osaka on October 9 and 10, 2004. The purpose of the symposium was to exchange information regarding efforts that have been made to realize the 1995 Beijing Conference "Action Programs" and to clarify the challenges that still remain. The Women's Division of the Osaka Federation of the Buraku Liberation League participated during the second day of the symposium by organizing a workshop entitled "Empowerment from a Minority Perspective ? Liberation from Compound Discrimination".

Atsuko Miwa from the Asia Volunteer Center (AVC) acted as coordinator for the workshop in which three presentations were made. The first presenter, Rieko Nakata from the Women's Division, discussed the present conditions faced by Buraku women based on the results of a 2000 Osaka Prefecture survey. The defining characteristics of the survey included low school attendance and college entrance rates and a high rate of illiteracy. The results of a separate survey of match-making agencies conducted by Osaka Prefecture indicate that reasons for unsuccessful marriage engagements include "being from a Dowa area" (9%), "one of the parties has family members with disabilities" (6%) and "issues due to nationality" (5%). While marriage between Buraku and non-Buraku people is on the rise, marriage-related discrimination in forms such as couples facing strong opposition to the marriage from their parents still exists.

The second speaker, Ai Yamamoto from the AVC, talked about Dalit women in Nepal. Dalit people are those placed at the bottom of the social structure within the discriminatory caste system. There are between two and three million Dalit people. In 1990, a law prohibiting origin-based discrimination was introduced in Nepal, but discrimination against Dalit people is still deeply rooted in society. Dalit people are usually landless and identifiable by their names and occupations. Dalit women suffer compound discrimination as they are forced to work all day doing both farm work and household chores. They therefore have a shorter life-expectancy than Dalit men.

The Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO) was founded in 1994 by Dalit women. FEDO fights discrimination based on both gender and caste, and aims at building a just and peaceful society. The organization also provides Dalit women with equal opportunities to develop their potential.

Through literacy classes, women learn not only how to read and write, but also about the rights they have been deprived of and the exploitation they face. This empowers Dalit women to stand up and change the social structure from within.

The third speaker was Lisa Kumamoto from the Compound Discrimination Project Team of the IMADR-Japan Committee. As a university lecturer, she sometimes speaks about her experience of discrimination to her students. Students generally understand how people are discriminated against and that they suffer from it, but do not tend to be interested in learning why discrimination occurs from historical and ideological perspectives. The problems faced by Buraku women are not specific only to Buraku, but should be understood as problems caused by the social structure that encompasses all people. Kumamoto said that while Buraku women may be a minority in Japan, they constitute a majority when compared with minority people in developing countries. She urged that we therefore need to see problems from a global viewpoint.