Mama Festivals in Rikuzentakata
In post-disaster Tohoku, Japan (2011), "Mama Festivals" were held 4 times with the purpose of bringing mothers from Rikuzentakata and surrounding communities to join a child-friendly space and share their skills and interests. Rather than remain ensconced within childrearing and housework, Mama Fest participants visited over 20 women-led booths (flower arranging, tea circle, handicrafts, baby massage etc) and were welcomed in a space that gives mothers permission to seek happiness. Over 20 booths were presented at Mama Fest, yet many of these women’s skills had not previously found positive outlets in the region. Participating mothers are valuing their pre-and post-childbirth skills/talents have realized that their own fulfillment is of benefit to their children. Mama Fests have provided women an opportunity to re-discover their individual voice, participate in the community, and build connections with other mothers in a child-friendly space.
Within the context of a society confronting declining birthrates, Rikuzentakata has a small isolated population of 19,000 people, of whom roughly 40% (7000 people) are aged 65 years and over. Within one year, there are a mere 100 new births. The rate of aging of the community will only speed up in the near future. 1) Participants in Mama Fests, 2) numbers of booths featured at each festival, 3) number of women organizers and event leaders, 4) contagion to other organizations to create women and child-friendly activities and events, 5) Individual women organizing additional events across the region, 6) entrepreneurial spin-off businesses and self-employment arrangements pursued by participating mothers.
1) Attendance in 4 Mama Festivals: 1100 people 2) 20 women-led festival booths per Mama Festival 3) The number of women with the capacity to be event leaders and organizers has increased from 2-3 women to 10 women 4) There has been contagion to other spaces and organizations acknowledging the importance of supporting women and mothers and children. Childrearing organizations in the region now organize 1-2 annual outreach events that are held in multiple sites and locations across the city. 5) Individual women are independently organizing up to 3-4 events per month across the city and region 6) One woman has launched her own business; several women are building social entrepreneurial businesses.
About / Lessons Learned
Lesson 1: In the post-disaster context, large public works developments and commercial infrastructure were undertaken as reconstruction projects, however women were not included in these key decision-making spaces. Lesson 2: To bring a transformation of mindset, we encouraged women to commit to finding their own pathway to happiness, rather than be boxed in by stereotypes that assume, “Because I am a mother”, “Because I have kids”, "mothers cannot do anything." Women have taken stock of their skills and talents and realize this is a valuable resource for society; they are finding the courage to take responsibility for leading the changes they want to see in their community. With the contribution of women's diverse activities, expertise, and perspectives, new possibilities for our community are emerging and will contribute to building a better future for our children as well.