"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Opening Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at 5th WAW!/W20

[Date] March 23, 2019
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Full text]

I would like to thank Her Excellency Ms. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Her Excellency Ms. Gabriela Michetti, Vice President of Argentine and Ms. Malala Yousafzai.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for joining us today.

I am very pleased to be able to organize this joint session between World Assembly for Women (WAW!) and W20 today with your kind presence. Before receiving the communiqué from members of W20, I would like to express the deepest gratitude for their passionate activities of the years. Allow me to mention at the outset of this conference, Japan, as the presidency for G20 this year, extends unwavering efforts to support further development of W20 activities.

The World Assembly for Women organized by Japan commemorates its 5th year, but this is the first time to have the conference in the spring season. As we have anticipated, a symbolic flower of Japan, cherry blossoms came to bloom two days ago in Tokyo to welcome all the guests from around the world. However, this morning, the cold has returned to even surprise cherry trees. We have not anticipated that. We could plan the schedule but unfortunately not the weather. Temperature may be cold but flower blooms would not return to buds. I heard there are cherry blossom trees in the Japanese garden of this hotel, so I hope between meetings you have chances to enjoy the arrival of spring with your eyes.

Day by day the flowers transform dramatically to its beautiful full bloom. Likewise, Japan is transforming its landscape with great speed for a society where women shine. Within 6 years of Abe administrations, additional more than 2.8 million women have made a choice to join the workforce. We reformed childcare leave which strongly promotes men's participation in childcare and have been enhancing platform for nursery 2.5times faster compared to the former administration. To stop the practice of long working hours and to enable diversified working styles to meet each individual life style, we have been also pursuing a labor system reform. As a result, active women employment rate has gone up by 8.9% within 6 years. It demonstrates the largest growth rate far exceeding other G20 countries. I believe this is the testimonial that society can change with solid vision and specific action.

Japan has put significant emphasis on the goal of 25 by 25 set by the Brisbane G20 Summit 5 years ago. G20 nations will work to reduce the gender gap in labor force participation by 25% by 2025. In realizing this vision, specific action is needed. Within G20 processes, we need to follow up on the commitment made by each country in the process and we need to work for achieving the goal together. My conviction is that Japan as the Presidency of G20 this year will demonstrate leadership in alliance with the members of W20. In 2025, Japan will be hosting the World Expo. The theme is a design of future society held in Osaka, Kansai. I would like to welcome members of G20 to this expo to jointly celebrate achieving the 25 by 25 goal.

Japan's economy has grown over 10% in the past 6 years and the main engine for the growth is Womenomics. This does not simply mean increase in labor force. This is far greater value to have women in workforce. Your Excellency Ms. Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, for Japanese better known as a former President of Chile, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation for your strong partnership in together exerting effort to achieve the conclusion on the TPP11 agreement. In January 2 years ago, the negotiation has strolled for one moment with an announcement of US withdrawal from the partnership TPP. Japan was unable to respond immediately. With a sense of self-discipline, I must confess that in the time of shocking incident, men are standing and could be delayed in their response. However you were different. Chile called upon the member states to realize a ministerial meeting in just 2 months. While there was high concern about protectionism around the world, we could keep the momentum for continuing the negotiation. Since then, the negotiation had come to an agreement in just 1 year. This is thanks to Michelle who kept unwavering consistent attitude to seek for the early agreement. In the current world, we can emphasize on confrontational matters, but the most needed is women's flexible leadership and an attitude to seek for common grounds. The diversity with not only men but also such women will solve many social issues and will be the driver for the strong economic growth.

I requested all listed companies here in Japan to appoint at least one female executive 6 years ago. However, the request does not lead a true transformation. As the members of W20 stress, what is important is to create an ecosystem that leads to the transformation of our societies. By changing the corporate information disclosure rules, we made it mandatory that number of female executives must be stipulated in the annual securities reports. With this effort, female executives within the listed companies have increased by 2.7 times in 6 years. Last year, we also changed and revised corporate governance cord exclusively underscoring the importance of gender diversity in managing company. Enterprises without female executives are obliged to explain the reason to their investors. With this reform, we are expecting further acceleration of increasing in the number of women executives. On top of that, we need role models we can look up to in order to complete the ecosystem. Your Excellency Vice President Michetti, I would like to express my hurtful respect for your long standing development in creating an inclusive society with the disabled. Despite your own hardship, as an economist, as a politician, as a leader to tackle social issues, your multiple outstanding achievements provide strong inspiration to the next generation women leaders around the world. One of the roles of this WAW! is to invite as many role models to the conference as possible and to present their way of living to the world. I hope WAW! would be used as a watchword and grow as a platform which always motivates and encourages women around the world. We are willing to make further efforts to nurture this object.

Around the world, there are still over 60 million children unable to attend elementary school and unfortunately two third of illiterate people are said to be women. A girl called Laiba living in Pakistan, the home of Ms. Malala Yousafzai, was one of them. She was prohibited from going to school from her father but she secretly has started to educate herself by attending non-formal elementary school supported by the Japanese government. One day her father, stricken by his daughter's growth, has permitted Laiba to go to school. Now she is a member of community education council and is striving to increase leaning opportunity for other women in the community. Laiba herself is teaching her mother, her sisters and her neighbors how to read and write. The circle of education is expanding. Japan is committing to play a major role in expanding opportunities for girls' education in developing countries. Next 3 years by 2020 , we would be offering high quality education and opportunity for people development to at least 4 million women in developing countries. According to the World Bank report, if all the girls around the world can receive 12 years of high quality education, women's lifetime income will increase at most by total of 30 trillion dollars. Enhancing education is not merely a social policy, it is the most significant crew to sustainable economic growth. This year, Japan as the Presidency of G20 Osaka Summit, we would like to take up this issue with sincerity. All the girls have access to at least 12 years of high quality education. This is the world that we aim to be with G20 leaders and we would like to achieve with farm resolution.

"One book and one pen can change the world." This is a historical speech, Ms. Malala Yousafzai delivered at United Nations. I was not the only one encouraged by these words filled with strong spirits. I remember feeling one woman can truly change the world. I still remember it. When many women raise their voices and each and every one of us takes action, the world can change without doubt. With that belief, Japan has started to initiate this WAW! in the following year. Through the conference, Japan will continue its effort to realize women's empowerment together with all of you advocating our voices and leading to action by each one of us. One voice and one action can change the world. Let us work together as one.

Thank you for your kind attention.