Katsuko Nomura – Japan

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “My trick is to talk to people using ordinary language in an ordinary manner that allows them to relate to my cause. It’s ineffective to raise yourself above the people whose support you want”.

Katsuko Nomura - Japan.jpg

Katsuko Nomura – Japan, 2004 (in interview)

She works for the Livelihood Cooperative Association, for the Women’s Occupational Association, and for the Laborers’ Families’ Organization.
Further she had worked for the Consumers’ Union of Japan, and she founded the Overseas Citizens’ Activities Information Center, as also the Information Center for Public Citizens.
(Sorry, no website found with an english text for one of these NGOs, they may exist in Japanese).

Katsuko Nomura, called the pioneer of Japan’s NGO movement, has helped to ensure social justice for Japan’s citizens for more than half a century.

After the war, appalled by the scarcity of food, Katsuko lobbied general headquarters for a consumer cooperative law. As a result, the Japan Life Society Cooperative Law was passed in 1948. The law placed more rights into the hands of consumers, who as a result became more effective in solving the problems of daily life in post-war Japan.

She went on to establish a Livelihood Cooperative Association, which laid the groundwork for the development of Japanese co-ops. In 1951, she founded the Women’s Occupational Association. It provided general education and occupational training for women, helping them gain financial independence and often meaning the survival of their families.

During her work for the Japanese Workers’ Trade Union, she was again confronted by the inhumane conditions that large Japanese conglomerates forced upon their employees, particularly mine workers. To provide assistance to them and their families, she founded the Laborers’ Families’ Organization in 1957.

From 1971 to 1982 she directed the Consumers’ Union of Japan, turning it into an effective tool in the fight for consumers’ rights.

During her second visit to the US in 1970, Katsuko met Ralph Nader for the first time. From him, she learned the need for a consumers’ movement operating on both macro and global scales. Consequently, in 1975, she founded the Overseas Citizens’ Activities Information Center to provide information about citizens and consumers movements overseas, and to encourage her constituents to see and understand the connections between their own struggles and those of others globally.

Although she advocated for Japanese consumers’ rights, Katsuko also recognized the contradiction of their position in the world when she became very aware of Japan’s relationship to the Third World. She, therefore, advocated strongly against what Ralph Nader terms ‘violence of complicity’ and ‘violence of silence’.

She wrote: “What is lacking most in Japan’s consumer movement is a consciousness of the possibility of consumers being victims within Japan while being victimizers of the Third World”.

In 1975, Katsuko established the Information Center for Public Citizens and worked there until 1998, when she retired at age 87.

Katsuko Nomura began her work at a time when Japanese society was very stratified and the gender gap was unbridgeable. Japan’s widespread poverty and famine affected the country’s lower classes and most vulnerable members. As one of the country’s first grass-roots activists, Katsuko both changed lives and inspired others to question the status quo and to claim their rights. She fostered peace by encouraging solidarity between and among common people from different nations.

The key to her success, says Katsuko, is how she relates to the people she works with and for. “My trick is to talk to ordinary people using ordinary language in an ordinary manner that allows them to relate to my cause,” she said. “It’s ineffective to raise yourself above the people whose support you want”. (1000PeaceWomen).

links:

Industrial Tragedies Foster Activist Movements (10/1983);

Nationa Women’s Education Center NWEC of Japan;

An assessment of the need for effective consumer organisations in India and Japan … , no 408, March 2006;

Ingenta connect, Vol 24/1, May 2004.

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