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CARE International Japan
Walk in Her Shoes Campaign

This month's Close UP features CARE International Japan, a member of a global humanitarian organization CARE. CARE is currently active in over 70 countries around the world to support people suffering from poverty. In Japan, over ten million people received aid from CARE during the postwar recovery years. Its Japan office was first established 1987 as CARE Japan after the country gained its energy back to become an aid provider. Now called CARE International Japan, the organization aims to eliminate issues which are at the root of global poverty and has been providing support to people in poor countries mainly in Asia and Africa, especially focusing on women and children who are often socially more vulnerable. For this interview, we talked to Terumi Tamami, PR staff member from its marketing department, and asked her about the upcoming "Walk in Her Shoes" campaign starting this March.

Terumi Tamami (left)
Yuji Kawai (right), intern for Walk in Her Shoes campaign

What is the "Walk in Her Shoes" campaign aiming at?


A. For us Japanese who can get clean water anytime simply by turning on the faucet, it may be difficult to imagine that people in many developing countries have to walk for quite a distance to a river or a forest to get water needed for everyday living. It is said that on average they walk about 8,000 steps (about 6 kilometers) to collect water. And, this hard labor is mostly a responsibility of women and children. Walk in Her Shoes campaign gives people an opportunity to experience the current hardship in developing countries for securing clean water by asking participants to walk as many steps as those women and children. The campaign also aims to improve the recognition among people that the labor of collecting water by women and children is part of the reason that is keeping them in poverty.

©CARE

©CARE

How are the water collecting labor and poverty related?


A. For example, in southern Sudan where we have been building wells and restrooms and promoting sanitation education, women and children takes three hours for one way to collect water. They spend many hours and much of their energy just to get water. Therefore, children cannot go to school, which makes it difficult for them to find a more stable job once they grow up. Women cannot work outside home to bring in more money for families. Their responsibility of collecting water takes away their time even for receiving necessary medical attention, which could cost their lives in the end. And the chain of poverty continues.
When an issue of access to clean water is discussed, focuses are usually on sanitary issues such as the importance of preventing diarrhea and infectious diseases. However, easier access to safe water will also release women and children from the labor of water collection and instead allow them to go to school or learn practical skills for better jobs. This serves as a first step for those people to get out of poverty. We want more people to know about these additional effects.

©CARE

©CARE

How can we join the Walk in Her Shoes campaign?


A. Walk in Her Shoes is an online campaign that was started last year by CARE Australia. This year, the campaign is being held by all CARE member countries around the world. We are launching the campaign's official website in Japanese on March 8. If you are interested in the campaign and would like to join, please go to the website and complete the registration before you start your 8,000-step walking challenge. You may choose to walk everyday for 7 days as part of your daily routine using your commuting time, for example, or to walk as a small group with family members, friends, or coworkers over the weekend. Participants are welcome to post their comments on our website and communicate to each other by sharing how many steps you walked or how you feel about being part of the campaign. If you are not in the mood for walking but are still interested in what we are doing, we still want you to visit our website and read the latest information about water issues in developing countries. Educating yourself about the current situation is another way to be part of our campaign.

Tell us about a collaboration event you are planning at the end of March.


©CARE

A. Unlike Europe and the United States where being a volunteer or making donations are common to the culture, people in Japan may be a bit hesitant to join individually the campaign like Walk in Her Shoes. To create an opportunity to encourage those people to take a step, we are holding an outdoor walking event to walk as a big group. Our first Charity Walk event is scheduled on March 26 (Sat.) along the Tamagawa Josui channel by mainly targeting students who are usually more interested in international cooperation. Before starting the walk, we let participants actually feel the weight of water jars that women and children are carrying, and also have a group discussion about water and gender issues to help participants become more aware of what side affects occur to those women and children who endure during water collection labor. Our staff members will also join the walk and will be ready to answer questions and share their stories with participants about their carrier as an NGO staff member or what they have seen and experienced around the world. The event is a great opportunity for us too to hear people's opinion and learn about what they are interested in.

What is the future goal of the Walk in Her Shoes campaign?


A. To promote the campaign, we would like to make our Charity Walk a model event and eventually hold it nationwide. We would also like to plan an event that attracts couples and families in addition to students, in which anyone regardless of age and gender can participate. We are aware that the issues surrounding water cannot be solved quickly and are planning the campaign in the long term. This year, we are running the campaign from March through June. We hope to make this an annual event during this season.

Can you give advice for those who want to take action but don't know where to start?


A. CARE International Japan started another campaign called the "i care PROJECT" last October. Anyone can join the campaign, as it simply asks people to tweet what you are interested in or what you care about among the many things happening around the world. You learn about what is going on in the world, think it over, express it in your words, and share your opinion with others. We believe that such a process is also one way to help the world. If you join the Charity Walk, for example, and tweet about the event and share your experience, your action may eventually lead to a bigger movement.

Lastly, please give a message to our reader.


At the office

A. International cooperation is not as hard as you may think. To learn and think about what is going on in the world is a great way to be part of the global effort. We would like to be open and be able to invite people to join our efforts by offering different opportunities. If you are interested in our activities, we want you to first participate in something--an event, a campaign, or a volunteer work, and then share with others what you learn and feel through your experience. We seriously value people's opinion about our activities. As an NGO, we would like to send out the information to people but would also like to exchange communication with them to find a new development for the future. We always welcome your opinions and questions.