A handful of small cities in Japan have managed to do what the rest of the country hasn’t: Elect women.

Among the country’s city councils and assemblies, men held more than 80% of the total seats as of 2021. But in Ebetsu, a small city in northern Hokkaido, more than 40% of the city council members are women; voters in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, a suburb outside of Osaka, awarded 14 of 26 seats to women; the city of Nisshin in Aichi Prefecture, about 17 kilometers from Toyota headquarters, now has a local assembly with an even split.

These areas are a bright spot for a government that in 2018 passed a bill advocating for parties to put an effort into fielding an equal number of male and female candidates. Overall, progress has been slow — women hold just 15% of seats in parliament. At the local level, women make up just 14% of elected officials, according to data from U.N. Women.