Building a Peaceful and Prosperous Future Through the Power of Women

Empowering women will build an indispensable foundation for not only women, but all people to enjoy a peaceful and prosperous future.
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The G7 Ise-Shima Summit will be held in Japan next week, and I would humbly like to emphasize my faith in the power of women and hope that the Summit will serve as a forum to build international momentum to further unleashing such power of women.

Through my encounters with women from all walks of life -- students, entrepreneurs, farmers, fisherpersons, and company executives -- I have witnessed first-hand the power of women to engage and connect people. This women's power with their heart filled with motherly affection can open up a new path for a peaceful and prosperous future.

Women make up half of the global population and it is crucial that we maximize the power of women in order to promote economic growth and job creation. Such efforts will be necessary to realize the new development goals of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, which launched this year.

I am pleased to say that Japan has made significant strides in creating a society where women shine. The World Assembly for Women (WAW!), an initiative launched by Japan in 2014, and a variety of other events during the "Shine Weeks" have been taking place in Japan, and I myself was deeply involved in the initiatives. My own personal impression is that while men are good at building top-down pyramidal organizational structures, women, with their sense of motherhood, are better at developing networks and I am convinced they can play a significant role in this regard.

I believe the importance of the creation of a diverse society where women, children, people with disabilities, members of the LGBT community, and others who have historically been disenfranchised can remain to be themselves. We can accomplish this by incorporating women's perspectives. This I believe will lead to a more peaceful world.

One example of the power of women is the collaboration between my home prefecture of Yamaguchi and Fukushima prefecture. There has existed a historical rivalry between the two regions dating back to a civil war in the 19th century. I grew rice, Yamatonishiki, in my home prefecture of Yamaguchi and brought it to Fukushima to brew an original sake called Yamato. This sake symbolizes women's passion and hopes for peace, and their power to break from the past and reunite the hearts of people. This story demonstrates women's ability to accept and forgive.

Through the painful news of crises involving conflicts and refugees around the world, I am also keenly aware that women and children are most vulnerable in unstable environments. I myself have witnessed these challenges through visits to orphanages around the world.

It is vital that women are protected and their rights are respected. At the same time, the importance of ensuring women's active participation in society should not be ignored. I believe that deeper involvement and greater leadership of women in conflict prevention, peace building, and poverty reduction will make possible the creation of a peaceful society.

Finally, in order for the power of women to flourish, I believe it is essential that women have the opportunity to study and learn, so that they can think and act for themselves.

This year's G7 summit has special significance, as the first to be held in Asia in eight years. As such I will be highlighting the achievements of the scholarship program of the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh, which I have been personally involved with. Girls there, who would otherwise have difficulty accessing education due to poverty and other challenges, have a strong conviction that they can change society, and seriously engage in discussions on the causes and solutions for conflict in order to achieve a more peaceful world.

The education of women strengthens female political representation, reduces the gender gap in skilled professions, improves maternal and child health, and leads to positive changes in a society.

In late April, students from the G7 countries gathered for the G7 Junior Summit in Kuwana City in Mie, the same prefecture where the Summit will be held. I saw students from around the globe actively discussing the issues they faced, such as economic disparity, climate change, human resource development, and gender. I witnessed these young people fostering friendships and shaping the future. However, we should not forget that there are many children, especially girls, who are deprived of such opportunities to study. They face the harsh and tragic reality of having no choice but to give up their education and their own future.

At WAW! 2015 (The World Assembly for Women), my husband announced his intention to highlight women as one of the priority agenda items at the G7 Ise-Shima Summit. I sincerely hope that my husband, as chair, with the leaders of the G7 countries, that share universal values such as respect for basic human rights and democracy with us, will present a strong vision for giving women opportunities for education and training, and allow the power of women to flourish around the world.

Empowering women will build an indispensable foundation for not only women, but all people to enjoy a peaceful and prosperous future. Mie prefecture, where the Summit will be held, holds a special place for women in Japanese history. It is famous for 'ama,' female divers who collect pearls and other precious marine products, whose tradition has continued in the region for almost 2000 years. Mie is also the location of the Grand Shrine of Ise, which celebrates the Japanese sun goddess 'Amaterasu'. While in Mie, I hope to contribute to this goal of the empowerment of women with the other spouses of G7 leaders through conversations and exchanges of opinions and the local people in Mie prefecture.