My Galapagos Syndrome

By Aki Yoshida

Aki Yoshida from the YWCA of Japan was one of the YWCA Delegates at CSW 55. She shares her thoughts and experience.

Aki Yoshida


Have you ever heard of the term “Galapagos syndrome” or “Galapagosization?” It refers to a phenomenon in which Japanese products such as mobile phones have evolved isolated from the rest of the world despite their superior quality and advanced technology, just like endemic Galapagos Islands animals. Well, that sums up my first-ever CSW experience.

Being the only country to have suffered from two atomic bombings, while at the same time to have caused tremendous damage and pain to the neighbouring countries during its wartime aggression, the YWCA of Japan puts priority on achieving peace without nuclear technology, promoting the principle of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution that renounces war as a means of settling international disputes, and peacemaking in Northeast Asia. These issues are without doubt important and we are also committed to capacity building of young women leaders and championing and protecting women’s and children’s rights at both local and national levels, yet I have realized our main focus on peace is not quite in sync with the World YWCA’s global agenda like violence against women, HIV and AIDS, SCR1325, and intergenerational leadership.

The same goes for Japan’s parallel event on empowerment of women in rural Japan. Accounts and analyses of current situations and challenges of Japanese women from different sectors were certainly thought-provoking, but more importantly how can we translate these into global action? Unlike Finland’s or South Korea’s events, there were no international guests on the panel or international dialogue on the theme.

I know you are thinking, “Look who’s talking?” Yes, I was shy and always sticking with fellow Japanese and avoiding speaking up in front of others. I need improvement in English, self-assertiveness, self-confidence, and above all, leadership. I must change my Galapagos mindset and break the mold to work effectively in a global team environment.

I am privileged to have been a part of this year’s CSW 55 team. It was amazing and inspiring to see all of the YWCA Delegates work seamlessly as a truly international and intergenerational team and to see so many young women confidently taking initiative in workshops and the worship. I have returned home safe and sound with a lot of fond memories, from the UN Women launch event and our worship, to a visit to the YWCA Brooklyn. I was also able to broaden and deepen my understanding of trafficking in women and children, which is my area of interest, by attending many parallel events on the subject from different perspectives: commercial sexual exploitation of children, Nordic models of combating sex trafficking, migrant women and domestic violence, and the never-ending controversy over the issue of sex workers. After all Japan is one of the few industrialized countries placed in Tier 2 in the 2010 U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report. So much still needs to be done.

I wish, once more, to thank everyone on the team.

Arigato (thank you) and Matane (see you again)!

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