This past International Women’s Day, the International House of Japan was teeming with an illustrious group of women – Japanese and those from abroad – gathered to recognize the 70th anniversary of The College Women’s Association of Japan (CWAJ) and the efforts the organization has made over the past seven decades to promote education, art, community service and cross-cultural understanding.
To commemorate the occasion, the CWAJ held a symposium with guest panelists of from all fields. Joining Kaori Kuroda, executive director of CSO Network Japan, on the panel were Yoko Tokunaga, founder of Fundraising-lab, Minami Tsubouchi, executive director at the Global Fund for Education Assistance and 2004 CWAJ Scholar, and Sayuri Daimon, executive operating officer and managing editor of The Japan Times.
The theme was “Women Making a Sustainable Impact in Society.” The subjects of SDGs (sustainable development goals), the role of NPOs and the role of the press were addressed by the distinguished panel members. Tsubouchi and Daimon, who have both worked extensively in the Middle East, shared their travel stories filled with intercultural encounters. Tokunaga lightened up the room with her vivaciousness, and shared her unique perspective on NPOs, saying that their role in society is to give to people the chance to have and pursue dreams of their own.
Established in 1949, the College Women’s Association of Japan (CWAJ) is a not-for-profit, volunteer group of women with various cultural backgrounds that promotes education, cross-cultural exchange and volunteerism. The CWAJ has provided scholarships to more than 800 women from 35 countries to pursue higher education. Past recipients include aid workers in conflict zones, doctors seeking to curtail diseases and ailments in home countries such as Malaysia and Uzbekistan, and the first woman appointed as executive vice-president at Tokyo University. They have also opened two special scholarships for visually impaired students and those enrolled in nursing school in areas of Fukushima Prefecture affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
As a non-profit organization (NPO), their solidity rests in their high valorization of friendship and intercultural understanding. The scholarships that are awarded to those in need and with much ambition are gladly given with the belief that the education of women will make the world a better place. Current scholars include Masaki Takahashi, studying to fight deforestation and climate change, and Eri Tayama, who has participated in numerous emergency operations to help those affected by natural disasters.
The various activities and awards are possible through donations, of course, but also thanks to the proceeds from annual CWAJ print show. Held in October at the Hillside Forum in Daikanyama, the CWAJ encourages print artists to submit their works for a chance to be featured in the five-day exhibition. This not only allows the CWAJ to raise the money for their activities, but also gives exposure to rising artists alongside Japan’s well-known printmakers such as Daniel Kelly and Toko Shinoda.
The show includes a raised artworks display with descriptions in braille that allows the visually impaired to experience the prints. Private tours can also be booked, given both in Japanese and in English, for those who would like more information on the selected works of the exhibition.
In 2018, a CWAJ print show was held in Cape Cod, in the United States, and featured works with the common theme of horticulture to commemorate the renovation of its historical botanical garden.