National

Abe's female Cabinet picks set example for world, says U.N. Women chief

by Seana K. Magee

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet reshuffle last week — which increased the number of female members from two to five — set a positive example for the world, according to the head of the United Nations agency working to empower women.

“Japan is getting to be one of the countries that are raising the bar in representation of women in decision making,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of U.N. Women, said in an interview at her office on Tuesday. “We are very happy with the ‘womenomics’ of Japan.”

The Abe government has set a goal of raising the proportion of women in leading corporate positions to 30 percent by 2020 as part of its economic growth strategy.

While Mlambo-Ngcuka said she would welcome more women in key posts, she spoke of the significance of assigning more women to key government posts.

She cited Yuko Obuchi’s appointment as head of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as it indicates that Abe “takes serious the role of women in the economy.”

The four other portfolios given to women are the minister of justice, the minister of internal affairs and communications, the minister in charge of the abduction issue and the minister in charge of promoting the active participation of women.

Against the backdrop of the Cabinet reshuffle, however, the heckling of Tokyo assembly member Ayaka Shiomura by male legislators this summer was “unacceptable,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. She also pointed out that it was incumbent upon the international community to express solidarity with the Your Party representative.

“She (Shiomura) must not be discouraged because it is only when you are doing something important that people will either attack you or criticize you,” she noted. “One should always see that as a sign that you stand for something important, that is worth fighting for.”

While she would like to see more female candidates, she believes the female legislators have the potential to influence society beyond Japan.

“I hope that we could see some interesting changes for the women and the people of Japan because in any case when you empower the women, we empower the nation,” she said.

“It is important to us that Japan succeeds for Japan’s sake, but also for the world’s sake.”

The former deputy president of South Africa is attending the World Assembly for Women, which will be held from Friday to Sunday in Tokyo. The event is being organized by the Foreign Ministry.

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