Providing Need-Based Support for Women with the Toono Magokoro Net

Our Post-Disaster Support Project for Women and Children has been receiving lots of information about the needs of women in the disaster-struck areas through the organization Toono Magokoro Net. Based in Toono City, Iwate, this non-governmental organization mobilized soon after the disaster, using various networks including hundreds of volunteers to organize need-based support to victims every day. Toono City has good access to many of the devastated coastal areas, and sends out these units of volunteers to Ofunato, Kamaishi, Otsuchi, Rikuzentakata, and Yamatachou.

Beginning with K-san and T-san, I would like to thank all the representatives and vice-representatives from the bottom of my heart, for listening carefully to the needs of women and children, and for making women's voices heard in the reconstruction effort.

I joined some of these representatives yesterday, as we traveled to various evacuation centers to speak with the residents and distribute some sets of supplies that the Post-Disaster Project had prepared for female residents. Our informational cards on how to take care of oneself and prevent sexual violence were, of course, also attached.

Although supplies varied by the evacuation center, there were some centers which had a stock of items like cosmetics, feminine hygiene supplies, and underwear. In those places, I brought individual items instead of sets and let the women and children pick out whatever they wanted.

The construction of temporary housing and lottery-style distribution system are proceeding, even as many people still haven't found the remains of loved ones. Importantly, once you enter provisional housing, most people get cut off from receiving supplies...

No matter whom we spoke with, the women said that summer clothing and bras to fit the sizes of women living in the centers are "totally lacking." The summer clothes that have been arriving from companies around the country aren't medium-sized shirts and camisoles, but tend to be larges and extra-smalls that don't really fit anyone. Many people also said that they wished that people donating clothes wouldn't just send old or worn clothing, but things that they themselves would like to wear. I met one woman yesterday who went to Ofunato City just to buy one shirt, which she said she'd wear every day for the rest of the summer!

With lots of expenses looming, there are many people who are spending their savings on the costs associated with moving into temporary housing.

A group that organizes foot baths for the Toono Magokoro Net uses these as an opportunity to listen to what's on women's minds. Not surprisingly, the women wish that "people didn't think they could just send anything [that they don't want anymore], but instead picked even just one thing from their wardrobe that is hard for them to part with." The group consistently makes this request to groups of university students who come to volunteer.

I've heard that some of what the Post-Disaster Project recorded from these women on June 12 was published in the Mainichi Newspaper's Kibou Shimbun (Wish Newspaper), for volunteers going up to the disaster areas. Finally, the Post-Disaster Project will hold workshops today and tomorrow at the Toono Magokoro Net, where we'll discuss what women can do to contribute to reconstruction efforts.