The Presidium, or office of the presidency in the Storting, is in Japan on an official visit. A recurring theme in meetings with Japanese legislators has been gender equality.
“There is a great gap between Japanese and Norwegian women’s participation in the labour force and politics,” concluded Fifth Vice President Line Henriette Hjemdal after a meeting with the cross-party group in the National Diet (the Japanese legislature) that works on gender equality issues.
“The goal to create a society with greater equality between men and women in Japan must be pursued through the development of welfare benefits such as parental leave and child-care facilities. Furthermore, pay must be improved to make a good work-life balance possible. Not least, there is a need for cultural changes so that women’s participation in working life is valued, by both women and men,” Ms Hjemdal pointed out.
Tomorrow, 8 March, is Women’s Day, and gender equality was discussed both when meeting the cross-party gender equality group and in meetings with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and other members of the legislature.
Japan faces great challenges as regards strengthening women’s position in society. Only 12 per cent of the members of the National Diet are women. A recurring challenge is that many highly educated women leave the workforce after having children, and that men often work such long hours that they are both unable and unmotivated to participate actively in housework and child rearing.
The National Diet’s cross-party group showed great interest in Norway’s experience of fostering gender equality. Michiyo Takagi from the Komeito Party asked about the background to the breakthrough in women’s participation in society and political life in Norway.
“Sharing Norway’s experiences from the late nineteenth century to the present with our colleagues from the Diet is an example of a fruitful exchange of views among legislators. We must not rest on the laurels of what we have achieved, be it in Japan or in Norway. The battles of tomorrow must be fought today,” Hjemdal noted.
“Gender equality is a conscious process ”
The Storting’s Fourth Vice President, Ingjerd Schou, believes that the issues facing Japanese society underline the importance of Women’s Day.
“Our visit to Japan underscores that democracy, human rights and gender equality are worth fighting for in all countries. While 8 March is a day for celebrating equality, each of us must work to ensure that women and men have the same opportunities, rights and obligations in the context of building our nations and securing gender equality. In some countries, greater efforts are needed, but the overriding objectives and values must be pursued everywhere,” Fourth Vice President Ingjerd Schou said.
Visit to the House of Representatives
On its visit to the Japanese Diet, the Presidium was received by Speaker of the House of Representatives Tadamori Oshima. In addition to emphasising a desire to deepen the good relations between Norway and Japan, he also focused particularly on the poor representation of women in politics.
“Equality is not something that can simply be decreed by politicians. Attitudes must be transformed across the board, and it is therefore a key prerequisite that women themselves push ahead for positive change. The benefits adopted by Norwegian politicians that have been decisive for today’s broad participation in working life are the result of many years’ strong political pressure from women both within and beyond the political parties. Today’s women legislators in Japan should be encouraged to contribute in this regard. This was one of the points I made when meeting the Japanese members of the House of Representatives,” said the President of the Storting.
In connection with the Presidium’s official visit to Japan, President of the Storting Olemic Thommessen, accompanied by almost the entire Presidium, lunched with the Japanese Diet’s cross-party group working to promote gender equality issues. The topic discussed at the lunch was women’s participation in the labour force and in society at large.
In conclusion, the President of the Storting referred to the fundamental changes in views on gender which have occurred among both women and men since the 1960s.
Pictures from the visit
Powerful meeting with Hiroshima
Storting’s Presidium visits Japan