Overcoming disaster, poverty and social exclusion

12:02 Sep 26 2012 Iwate Prefecture, Japan

Overcoming disaster, poverty and social exclusion
Rie YAMAYA, Chair, together with a number of dedicated staff, launched “INCLU IWATE” in the summer of 2012 to serve the disaster affected areas in north east Japan. It is an NPO that supports single headed households, especially women, with an aim to reach an “INCLUsive society” where every person, regardless of their family structure, can embrace life and fulfill their dreams.

Women in the disaster affected areas continue to face difficulties in finding and securing economic opportunities amid reconstruction efforts. The number of women who received public unemployment allowance in 2011 was 1.4 times more than men. Hard-hit local businesses are struggling to recover and short-term “reconstruction” jobs are more available for men.

It is during these times that burden falls on the more vulnerable. In the Iwate Prefecture, female single-headed households consist of 92% of the total single-headed households. Their annual income before the disaster was less than one-half of the national average of 5.5 million JPY. While official figures after the disaster remain unknown, a number of reports indicated that they are facing numerous challenges as limited flexibility in job hours and mobility leads to less options in finding new jobs or is used against securing their old ones. Furthermore, there are single mothers who have evacuated from Fukushima to Iwate with no support from families or relatives.

INCLU IWATE empowers such single mothers who are under tremendous pressure to rebuild their lives. Its strength and emphasis lie in its “personal support service” where they work side by side continuously with each and every single mother, taking a comprehensive approach by bringing different sectors and institutions together to provide the assistance required. Under this approach, a network of “personal supporters” is trained to meet the mental and practical needs for single mothers to regain their self-esteem. Those became single mothers after the earthquake and tsunami, for example, require additional support for grieving. Those who are ready to search jobs can receive practical skills training at the INCLU Room and gather updated recruitment information at the INCLU Job Club. They can also meet their peers at the INCLU Single Mothers Café. This innovative and comprehensive support called the INCLU model will at first cater to approximately 20 single mothers and gradually expand itself to help more single headed households in Iwate.

(Photo caption: Single mothers receiving support at INCLU IWATE)
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