Beyond Formal Representation: Case studies of Women’s Participation in Civil Society in Japan

Authored by: Linda Hasunuma

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Democratization and Political Participation, Economic Participation, Human Development
Country: Japan
Region: East Asia and the Pacific
Year: 2019
Citation: Hasunuma, Linda. “Beyond Formal Representation: Case Studies of Women's Participation in Civil Society in Japan.” Women's Studies International Forum , vol. 72, Jan. 2019, pp. 1–8.

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Japan is the third wealthiest country in the world and its women are the most highly educated and literate among the 144 countries included in the 2017 Global Gender Equality report issued by the World Economic Forum. Yet, according to this report and the Inter-parliamentary Union’s data on women across national legislatures, Japan ranked 114th out of 144 countries for gender equality, and 159th out of 193 countries1 for the percentage of women in its national legislature. These international reports document persistent gaps in Japanese women’s representation, rights, and opportunities in politics and the economy, yet by going beyond formal representation and a focus on the official institutions of political power in the society, which are and have been dominated by men, women’s labor, leadership, and contributions become more visible. What are the implications for Japan’s democracy when women’s political participation and leadership are segregated into spaces outside of the formal institutions of power? Through three case studies, this article shows how and why some women engage in this sphere, and how their different identities and interests shape the nature and the meaning of their participation in civic life. Further, qualitative analysis provides insights into the complex and multidimensional ways in which women participate in political life in Japan.