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Global women’s forum in Tokyo calls for political, biz support for female empowerment

Kyodo

An international symposium on empowering women called Saturday for tax benefits, a shift in immigration policy and changes in corporate culture to help women play more active roles in the economy.

The World Assembly for Women in Tokyo, attended by about 100 prominent and mostly female political and business leaders from 24 countries, also supported the Abe government’s plan to submit to the Diet a bill obliging companies to set targets for promoting women.

Japan is hosting the three-day that began Friday as the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made women’s social advancement a pillar of its economic growth strategy. Participants included U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and U.N. Development Program Administrator Helen Clark.

Its proposals included enhancing services caring for children and elderly parents of working women, for example by relaxing regulations to allow greater employment of foreign workers.

Participants also called for an “unprecedented drastic reform in work style,” including an end to long working hours and the adoption of more flexible work style, and proposed the government give tax incentives to companies that encourage men to take parental leave.

The proposals also included ideas for protecting women’s human rights in developing countries and conflict-affected regions, compiled after a round-table discussion on Saturday and symposium on Friday, both joined by Abe.

The prime minister said at the beginning of Saturday’s session, “When we look at the world, we still see the sad reality that there are people who . . . cannot receive basic services such as health care and education just because they are women.”

Abe said he also intends to help women gain skills through training to become economically independent.

He further announced the opening of a U.N. Women’s office in Tokyo next year and said his government will deepen its cooperation with the United Nations to create a world in which women’s human rights are protected.

At the U.N. General Assembly in September last year, Abe pledged more than $3 billion in development assistance over three years for women’s empowerment and health care, of which $1.8 billion has already been disbursed.

The forum called for strategic investments in the areas of education, health care and food, support for female entrepreneurs by lowering hurdles to financing, an end to the culture of impunity for sexual violence, and survivor-centered support in peace-building.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said at the end of Saturday’s session that the government will learn from these proposals and take action.

The three-day event will wrap up Sunday with an outing to the Hakone resort area near Tokyo, while more than 100 related events are scheduled to continue nationwide and some in overseas locations through Sept. 19.

The women’s forum is hosted by the Japanese government and several groups, including Keidanren, the nation’s most influential business lobby. The government plans to host the women’s forum again next year.