MAYOR Emiko Okuyama of Sendai is the first-ever woman mayor in a major Japanese city. She is known as the one who brings a resilient recovery to Sendai. The natural disaster that befallen Japan in 2011 created a colossal impact on society, especially the Sendai community. Mayor Emiko focuses on reconstructions and hosting of UN International Conference to share Sendai’s experience.
Sustainable Recovery Post-Disaster (Reconstruction and Knowledge Sharing)
Mayor Emiko has been at the forefront of reconstruction efforts after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Based on an interview in 2015, Mayor Emiko shared that the reconstruction efforts focused on restoring public facilities and providing safe places. Three main projects of the reconstruction include the collective relocation of 1,540 households in a high-risk area; reconstruction of public housing (as of April 2013, around 700 people have been moving into the housing); and restoring damaged residential areas (cracks on the ground, retaining walls collapsed, buildings moved a few dozen centimetres).
After the remarkable recovery, Sendai hosted the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015. The conference’s main objective was to contribute to the international community by sharing experiences and knowledge of disaster risk reduction obtained and reconstruction status. Known as the role model city for promoting community-based disaster risk reduction, Sendai also shared information about community organisations and their structure.
Supporting Women Empowerment
Mayor Emiko also supports the empowerment of women’s participation. Although women still have a long way to go in Japan, she stated that women must be hand in hand in society. She said, “We have to create more childcare facilities and improve the nurse care system in order to provide opportunities for women to participate.”
Mayor Emiko also pointed out statistics that 60% of successful applicants for the Sendai City employment exam are women. She believes that Sendai would not be able to operate in the future without women in management positions. Oftentimes, when only one woman is leading, she tends to be considered as representing women in general. She stressed that it needed a group of women in action to erase the generalisation. Only then, women will have more opportunities in the community.
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