SEED Trip for Experts on Women, Peace and Security (WPS)

For its ninth Sasakawa USA Emerging Experts Delegation (SEED), Sasakawa USA selected a group of eight American Women, Peace and Security (WPS) experts involved in policymaking and implementation to engage with Japanese politicians, government officials, academics, civil society leaders, and media to exchange insights on how the United States and Japan can work together to mutually advance WPS in the alliance.

2023 SEED Participants

CDR Andre Agraviador; Senior Military Advisor; The Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues; Department of State

Ms. Erin Cooper; Acting Director for International Humanitarian Policy; Department of Defense

Ms. Sahana Dharmapuri; Director; Our Secure Future (a program of the One Earth Future Foundation)

Dr. Jennifer Hawkins; Senior WPS Advisor and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force Lead; U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

Ms. Monica Herrera; WPS Curriculum Developer; U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM)

Ms. Kayla McGill; WPS Policy Advisor and Lead on WPS Centers of Excellence; The Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues; Department of State

Dr. Jessica Smith; Director of Research; Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security

Dr. Carolyn Washington; WPS Manager; U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Learn more about the 2023 SEED program and delegation here.

Pre-trip Virtual Briefings

Ambassador Melanne Verveer

In June 2023, Sasakawa USA hosted the first virtual pre-departure briefing for participants of the 2023 Sasakawa USA Emerging Experts Delegation on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The session featured Ambassador Melanne Verveer, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues and Sasakawa USA Advisory Committee Member, who shared her perspective on the challenges and opportunities for the continued integration of WPS into Japan’s domestic and foreign policies. The delegates—whose expertise ranges from supporting WPS curriculum development, to spearheading the development of the U.S. Congressional caucus on WPS, to advising the State Department and Department of Defense on strengthening the link between gender and national security—participated in an engaging Q&A discussion with Ambassador Verveer moderated by Shanti Shoji, director of programs at Sasakawa USA.

Ambassador James Zumwalt

On July 6, Sasakawa USA hosted the second virtual pre-departure briefing for participants of the 2023 Sasakawa USA Emerging Experts Delegation on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The session featured Ambassador James Zumwalt, who is a distinguished senior fellow (non-resident) at Sasakawa USA. In addition, he is chairman of the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C. and former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Senegal and the Republic of Guinea Bissau. Ambassador Zumwalt provided the delegates with a comprehensive overview of U.S.-Japan relations, covering the major milestones and shifts which occurred from World War II to the present day. His remarks provided valuable context for the SEED delegates to understand some of the historical, political, and sociological factors which contribute to the current environment in which the Women, Peace and Security agenda is being implemented in Japan.

Ms. Shanti Shoji

On July 13, Sasakawa USA hosted the third and final virtual pre-departure briefing to prepare SEED participants for their engagements in Tokyo. This session was led by Ms. Shanti Shoji, Director of Programs at Sasakawa USA, with support from Associate Program Officer Isabelle Burke and Program Assistant Kaede Ishidate who also accompanied the delegation to Japan. Together they discussed the trip logistics and reviewed the schedule for engagements in Tokyo, as well as shared background information on organizations and interlocutors who the delegates would meet from various Japanese government offices, the Self Defense Forces, academia, and civil society.

Meetings and Roundtable Discussions in Tokyo

The delegation’s meetings in Tokyo took place from Monday, July 24 to Friday, July 28. The schedule was crafted to include engagements with the key stakeholders and institutions within the Japanese government, private sector, and civil society who are working directly on Women, Peace and Security, as well as those whose work tackles important crosscutting issues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and Japan’s regional security strategy for the Indo-Pacific.

Diet Members

The 2023 SEED WPS delegation with members of Japan’s parliamentary WPS caucus. (Back row, left to right): Ms. Maho Nakayama, Mr. Itsu Adachi, Ms. Monica Herrera, Dr. Jennifer Hawkins, Ms. Shanti Shoji, Hon. Takako Suzuki, Ms. Erin Cooper, Hon. Kiyoshi Odawara, Ms. Kayla McGill, Hon. Noriko Horiuchi, Dr. Jessica Smith, CDR Andre Agraviador, Dr. Carolyn Washington, Dr. Akiko Horiba. (Front row, left to right): Hon. Ryosei Akazawa, Hon. Yoko Kamikawa, Ms. Sahana Dharmapuri, and Hon. Haruko Arimura.

During their trip, SEED participants engaged with Japanese parliamentary representatives from the Diet Members’ Network for Women, Peace and Security to discuss what the Diet is currently doing to advance WPS within the government and Japanese society at large. The network, which is a caucus-like group that began to come together in late 2022 for the purpose of exploring how the WPS framework can be integrated into Japanese society, is chaired by Hon. Yoko Kamikawa, former Minister of Justice member of the House of Representatives. Hon. Kamikawa met with the delegates and shared updates on the network’s progress with implementing and promoting awareness of WPS in Japan. She and other attending Diet members then engaged in a discussion with SEED participants to exchange ideas on how the U.S. and Japan can work within a  WPS framework to mutually support one another’s efforts to advance women’s equal and meaningful participation in all aspects of society, from policymaking circles to the workplace to local communities. Key points from the discussion included:


  • Highlighting the importance of having champions of WPS among members of Congress/the Diet to promote the WPS agenda at the highest policymaking levels, and to encourage implementation in ministries from a top-down approach;
  • Acknowledging the need for a gendered perspective in peacebuilding and disaster relief contexts to ensure the specific needs of women are recognized and provided for in areas of conflict or instability; and
  • Recognizing the crucial role of legislation such as the WPS Act of 2017 in advancing WPS implementation across government agencies.

Ministries and Cabinet Offices

SEED participants also met with representatives from the government ministries in Japan which are currently tasked with implementing WPS as per Japan’s National Action Plan on WPS, which was developed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in coordination with civil society. The first NAP edition was published in 2015 and was followed by an updated version in 2019 (a third NAP was produced in 2023 and is currently only available in Japanese). Sasakawa USA’s SEED experts engaged in dialogue with representatives from some of the key ministries and government offices identified in the NAP as being responsible for implementing WPS into their activities as well as their internal organizational cultures.

The 2023 SEED WPS delegation with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Gender Mainstreaming Division.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Gender Mainstreaming Division is one such government entity tasked with WPS implementation. SEED participants exchanged insights with their representatives, including Ambassador Takao Imafuku who is Japan’s Gender Focal Point within the international Focal Points Network which serves as a forum for member states of the UN Security Council to coordinate on the advancement of WPS. The discussion centered on MOFA’s work to integrate WPS into Japan’s foreign policies and highlighted the importance of developing networks to connect government with civil society actors who possess the first-hand knowledge and expertise to guide WPS implementation towards the meaningful outcomes for women. In addition, the delegates held discussions with representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which is working to mainstream gender perspectives in disaster risk reduction such as through supporting victims of domestic violence and gender-based violence in disaster contexts, and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation which, as part of its mission to support the development of Japan and the international economy, participates in some women’s empowerment initiatives that are in alignment with aspects of the WPS framework and could be replicated to further enhance Japan’s support of WPS engagements overseas.

SEED participants also met with representatives of the Cabinet Personnel Office and the Gender Equality Bureau of the Cabinet Office to learn about their efforts to promote women’s empowerment in the central government and to promote gender mainstreaming in disaster relief operations and the workplace. The discussions also touched on Japan’s maternity/paternity leave policies and how this impacts retention of women employees and opportunities for women’s professional advancement.

Self-Defense Forces and Ministry of Defense

The 2023 SEED WPS delegation with members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and Ministry of Defense.

Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and Ministry of Defense are actively working to incorporate a WPS framework into their activities and organization, as demonstrated by the first meeting of the Headquarters for Women, Peace and Security Promotion in MOD which took place on August 8, 2023. MOD is working to incorporate a whole-of-ministry approach to further disseminate knowledge of WPS to all JMOD and JSDF personnel. The SEED participants held a series of meetings with JMOD and JSDF officials from various departments to learn about their approach to integrating WPS; represented departments included the Personnel & Education Department (which includes the Work-Life Balance Promotion Office), Policy & Programs Department, Eastern Army HQ, Maritime Staff Office, Joint Staff College, and the Bureau of Defense Policy. The meetings yielded fruitful discussions on how the U.S. and Japan can better share information and resources to support WPS efforts, as well as how our two countries can develop collaborative educational resources and training activities to mainstream gender perspectives in the U.S. military and the SDF.

Civil Society Advocates and Experts

The SEED participants also met with experts from academia and nonprofits to gain insights on their work to promote the adoption of gender perspectives in policymaking and support women’s equal participation in all aspects of society, from within homes to the workplace to the highest seats of government. Interlocutors included representatives from Kosodate Village (a NPO which offers educational programs promoting the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion), the Sasakawa Peace Foundation’s Peacebuilding Program, and academics studying WPS and related issues in national security.

The 2023 SEED WPS delegation with Professor Asako Osaki, Director of Gender Action Platform and member of the NAP Evaluation Committee.

SEED participants were able to meet with some of the civil society experts who are members of the National Action Plan on WPS Evaluation Committee, which since 2015 has produced annual reports monitoring the progress made by the government to implement the pillars of Japan’s NAP. Key takeaways from these meetings included the following points:

  • One challenge to mainstreaming WPS is that it is sometimes viewed as a task for foreign rather than domestic policymaking, but it is essential that gender mainstreaming also happens in Japan’s domestic institutions;
  • The 3/11 disaster highlighted the need for incorporating a gender perspective in Japan’s domestic disaster risk reduction and recovery efforts;
  • There are existing actors in Japanese civil society who are actively working on WPS, but the channels of communication/collaboration connecting civil society to the government are weak or in some cases nonexistent;
  • Some of the prevalent social structures in Japan—such as expectations for females to take on greater domestic responsibilities with housekeeping, childrearing, and elder care—present challenges to women who wish to maintain careers, resulting in many professional women being limited to pursuing parttime or temp work which can decrease their opportunities for promotion despite having extensive work experience;
  • WPS provides an opportunity for Japan to demonstrate its commitment to democratic values, multilateralism, and international order to the world stage, while also creating new pathways for collaboration with partners and allies; and
  • Measuring progress on Japan’s NAP implementation is made challenging by a lack of clear metrics and milestones for progress in the document.

The 2023 SEED WPS delegation with Professor Yoriko Meguro, Professor Emeritus at Sophia University and Chair of the NAP Evaluation Committee.











U.S. Embassy and U.S. Army Japan

The 2023 SEED WPS delegation with officials from U.S. Embassy Tokyo and U.S. Army Japan.

In addition to meeting with Japanese interlocutors, the SEED participants met with staff members of U.S. Embassy Tokyo and U.S. Army Japan to learn about the work they are doing to promote U.S.-Japan collaboration and information sharing on WPS best practices. In March 2023, U.S. Army Japan hosted their inaugural WPS Symposium to bring together stakeholders from the U.S. and Japan to discuss how our countries can advance bilateral efforts to collaborate on WPS in the region and globally. The meeting with SEED participants touched on this and other efforts the United States has made and is currently planning to continue engagement on WPS in the region. U.S. Forces Japan will continue to host these annual WPS symposia in collaboration with Japan Self-Defense Forces JMOD, and other stakeholders.

Cultural Study Tour in Kamakura/Yokohama

The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) of Kamakura, located at Kotoku-in.

As part of their delegation trip, the SEED participants traveled to Kamakura and Yokohama for one day to develop a more nuanced understanding of the broader cultural and historical context within which their Japanese WPS counterparts are operating. The delegates visited Engaku-ji (Zen Buddhist temple), Kotoku-in which houses the Great Buddha of Kamakura, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (Shinto shrine), and the Yokohama Landmark Tower which offers sweeping views of the city, one of the first Japanese ports to be opened to foreign trade in 1859.


The 2023 SEED program participants’ engagements in Japan yielded new insights on a number of topics related to Japan’s work on WPS, including: Japan’s progress on implementing the 2019 National Action Plan on WPS within the relevant ministries/cabinet offices/SDF; initiatives being taken by civil society actors to promote WPS; contextual information on Japan’s gender norms, demographic trends, and national security strategy which all inform how practitioners should approach WPS integration in a Japanese context; and opportunities for the U.S. and Japan to collaboratively work on WPS integration in the pursuit of our shared interest in achieving peace and prosperity for all members of society—in our individual countries, the region, and across the globe.

The delegation members were in a position to not only learn from their Japanese meeting partners about WPS in the context of Japan but were also able to impart valuable suggestions and insights to aid their Japanese counterparts’ efforts to integrate WPS in their respective institutions.

All eight SEED participants will be producing individual publications to share their takeaways from the trip, which will be made available on the Sasakawa USA website in the coming weeks.

Participant Perspectives

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