Tomoko Fukuda is Chief of the Advocacy Group at the Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning (JOICFP). In this role, she advocates in Japan for sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR), women’s empowerment and gender issues such as maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health. She also provides technical assistance and consultancy for “communication for development (C4D)” programs in Asian, African and Latin American regions. Ms. Fukuda is serving as the secretariat for the G7: NGO Health Working Group in Japan under the G7 Civil Society Platform. She also serves as a steering committee member of the Asia Pacific Alliance (APA) for SRHR. Ms. Fukuda earned her BA in Education from International Christian University.
I recently participated in Sasakawa USA’s Civil Society Exchange Program – a week-long dialogue that brought members of Japan’s Civil Society to the United States to interact with their counterparts in the U.S. This was the first opportunity I had to have a genuine dialogue with U.S. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and expand the understanding of international development. Overall, I learned of the importance of partnerships and the need to build the capacity and strengths of coalitions. In Japan, currently the groups that CSOs have created tend to be mere networks for information sharing and not a strategic coalition. Funding for networking or advocacy is scarce and many of these groups are organized without sufficient funding or have to rely heavily on the Japanese government to survive.
The voices of such CSO organizations are respected, but do not have the power for change. Greater efforts are necessary to raise the profile of CSOs in Japan as watchdogs and key advocates with a stronger voice. Historically, CSOs have been considered “volunteer” based organizations with philanthropic goals. The CSOs in the U.S. that focus on advocacy do not receive funding from the U.S. government, thus enabling them to have a stronger, critical voice. For Japanese CSOs, it is difficult to operate without Japanese government funding.
As U.S. CSOs are much greater in size with a wealth of technical expertise, the sharing of such knowledge is beneficial for Japanese CSOs. Exchange programs such as this one provide a valuable opportunity for advancing the civil society in Japan and furthering cooperation between our two countries.
About True Stories from Japan
True Stories from Japan is an occasional blog on the Sasakawa USA website that features reflective essays about travels to and from Japan. Click here for details on how to submit an article for consideration.