日本とアフリカの絆を深めよう!特定非営利活動法人ミレニアム・プロミス・ジャパン
This month’s Close UP features Millennium Promise Japan.
In September 2000, at the United Nations’ Millennium Summit, the Millennium Declaration was adopted as the global society’s goal for the 21st century. Based on the declaration, the Millennium Development Goals were formulated to suggest eight target goals that should be achieved by 2015 to solve extreme poverty in the world. Established in April 2008, Millennium Promise Japan aims to reduce poverty according to the Millennium Development Goals. Rieko Suzuki, Director of Millennium Promise Japan, told us about her first encounter with Africa and the organization’s various activities.
Rieko Suzuki, Director
(front row, far right),
and other staff members who support
the activities of Millennium Promise Japan
アフリカに興味を持たれたきっかけは何だったのでしょうか。
I moved to New York in the spring of 2004 with my husband who had been appointed as deputy ambassador to the United Nations. I became acquainted with Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who is Director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University and also special advisor to the UN Secretary-General. Prof. Sachs was directing the UN Millennium Project, which was launched to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
In January 2005, Prof. Sachs called my husband from Kenya and told him about Olyset Net, bed net made with fiber containing insecticide. Olyset Net was developed by a Japanese company, Sumitomo Chemical, and has been used in Africa to prevent malaria. Learning that technology born in Japan is contributing to saving lives of people in Africa, I joined an effort to promote the use of this insecticide net. That was when I started developing a strong interest in Africa.
I made my first visit to Africa in March 2005. I went to a music concert held at Dakar in Senegal promoting malaria prevention and became fascinated by the sense of rhythm and openness of African people. I later returned to Africa many times, including visiting villages in Kenya and Malawi in January 2006 which Millennium Promise, a nongovernmental organization that Prof. Sachs established in New York, has been supporting.
<United Nations Millennium Development Goals>
  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development
ミレニアム・プロミスはどのような活動をしているのですか。
Millennium Promise has been operating the Millennium Village Project, a support package to provide assistance in various fields including agriculture, medical healthcare, education, infrastructure development, and public health to some of the poorest villages in Africa. The Project is one of the organization’s plans to support the achievement of a UN Millennium Development Goal to reduce by half the ratio of the population living on an income of less than a dollar a day. Currently, the Project supports about 80 villages in 10 sub-Saharan countries by recognizing them as Millennium Villages. It provides 5-year comprehensive aid with the latest technology and human resources, aiming to promote the independence of the local people.

An open-air classroom in Mozambique

   80 villages in 10 countries are currently receiving the project’s support
ミレニアム・プロミス・ジャパンの設立を決意されたのはなぜですか。
I moved back to Japan in fall of 2006, taking with me my vivid impression of Africa. Knowing that the 4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development was to take place in Yokohama in May 2008, I decided that it was the perfect time to draw attention to supporting Africa in Japan, where people’s interest in Africa has been rather low. Once we established a corporation, things started progressing quickly, and Millennium Promise Japan was officially founded at the end of April 2008. Since then, the organization has been calling for the corporations in Japan to support Africa by working closely with Millennium Promise in the United States. Because the view that “Africa is far away” is still strongly held among people in Japan, it has not been easy for us to promote awareness and support for our activities. However, we continue to strive for our greater goal to provide full support to an entire village.
現在どんな活動に力を入れられていますか。

With children at an elementary school
in Uganda

We want to strengthen our help for girls in Africa. In general, the number of girls in African countries who go to school is extremely limited. Marriage and pregnancy at young age are not uncommon, either. The fatality rate of pregnant young mothers is also high due to widespread malnutrition and unsanitary conditions for delivering babies. The UN Millennium Development Goals target many issues related to women, such as achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, and improving maternal health. In other words, supporting girls means that we support the growth of their countries.
This year we plan to start educational support for 10 girls in Uganda. Continuous assistance is the key here, so we have already pooled funds enough for providing the aid for at least 4 years. Our next goal is to increase the number of children whom we can help.  

日本発のユニークな支援はありますか。
An excellent example is a Sudoku puzzle book. Sudoku has been one of the most popular puzzles worldwide including Japan, Europe, and the U.S. In addition to enjoying solving the puzzle, people can develop logical thinking by playing Sudoku. The president of Nikoli, a publisher of many Sudoku books, was interviewed by the New York Times and said that his dream was to contribute to world peace with Sudoku and that he wants to provide African children suffering poverty or war with a pen and a Sudoku book instead of a gun. After I heard about the interview, I helped him start a “Sudoku friendship exchange” with children in Mozambique.
Currently, Nikoli donates returned copies of its Sudoku puzzle books to us, which we send to Africa and have them distributed at local schools. On the back of the donated books, we place a sticker showing the title “Millennium Promise Japan” with a Japanese flag, and a short note saying that the book has been donated by Nikoli. We hope that this program continues to grow and connect people in Japan and Africa.
A Sudoku puzzle book to be donated to children in Africa
ミレニアム・ビレッジで一村一品運動を進めているそうですね。
Yes, our goal is to promote economic independence of local people by selling products made in the Millennium Villages in Japanese markets. One example of such products is shea butter produced in countries in West Africa. It became widely known to people in Japan after major cosmetic companies in England and France started selling products such as body cream made from shea butter. We imported shea butter from Mali, divided it into small portions, and wrapped them in cute packages. They were very popular among women at the Global Festa Japan last year, and we sold out at the event. Since shea butter is made by the hands of local women, helping its sales directly leads to helping those women. We hope that more Japanese companies will consider developing products using shea butter, such as body cream and soap.
We have been exploring various ideas for marketing other local products such as baobab fruit, banana powder, and honey. Although the high transportation cost has been a major issue due to the geographic distance between Africa and Japan, we still see a possible opportunity as more and more Japanese people become interested in organic products and Fair Trade.
日本の学生のミレニアム・ビレッジへの派遣にも取り組まれているとか。

Visiting an elementary school in Mozambique with Japanese students

Yes, we send Japanese student interns to countries such as Mozambique and Kenya. Our goal is to get more young people involved in the effort to help Africa. It is said that young Japanese people today, although they were born in such a materially rich country, have a considerably low level of happiness, compared to young people in other countries around the world. The Olyset bed net I mentioned before costs only about 500 yen. Those young people of Japan may realize how fortunate they are simply by learning that money which they may spend for a cup of coffee, can provide an African family with a good night sleep without worries of malaria for five years.
It would mean more than anything to us if our student interns, by experiencing poverty in Africa, come to appreciate the importance of life and the joy of living, learn a variety of lessons, and eventually decide to engage themselves in grass-roots support activities in Africa.
We also welcome volunteers who would like to support our activities in Japan by helping with office work, translating documents, making shipping arrangements, and other assistance.  

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