Japan: Chizuko Ueno receives ‘Han Honours’ letter of thanks from Finland

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - Sociologist Chizuko Ueno received on Monday the Han Honours, a letter of thanks that the Finnish Foreign Ministry awards.

Sociologist Chizuko Ueno received on Monday the Han Honours, a letter of thanks that the Finnish Foreign Ministry sends to individuals or groups who contribute to the promotion of equality and the construction of a society where everyone can live safely regardless of gender, ethnicity or background. 
 The presentation ceremony took place at the Finnish Embassy in Minato Ward, Tokyo.
 The chief director of the WAN (Woman’s Action Network) nonprofit organization, Ueno is one of the first 16 international recipients of the honors, which are part of the Han Campaign, an initiative officially launched by the ministry on June 3 to promote equality all over the world. 
 The campaign is set to last until the end of this year.
 The Finnish word “han” is a pronoun meaning “he,” “she” or any other gender. This neutral, inclusive word was selected as the name of the campaign to represent values appreciated by Fins, such as equality and equal opportunities. The campaign is intended to spread these values to the rest of the world.
 Ueno is a Japanese pioneer in feminism and woman’s studies. A professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, she made headlines in April by giving an inspiring speech to new students of the university, where the majority of students are male, pointing out hidden gender discrimination in Japanese society.
 The ceremony started with a welcome address by Pekka Orpans, the Finnish ambassador to Japan, followed by a greeting by former Finnish President Tarja Halonen. She was the first woman to become Finland’s leader in 2000, holding two terms through 2012.
 “She [Ueno] has tirelessly addressed sometimes controversial issues, such as gender discrimination and sexual violence, and provoked debate to make Japan a better society in respect of gender equality,” Halonen said before handing the framed letter to Ueno.
 “It is my great honor to receive a letter of thanks from the first female president of Finland, Ms. Tarja Halonen, because Finland is well known as one of the highest-ranking countries in terms of a gender-equal society,” Ueno said in her speech.
 Referring to Japanese women’s low status in society — Japan’s global ranking in the World Economic Report’s Gender Gap Report was 110th in 2018 among more than 140 countries — Ueno said, “The low status of Japanese women comes mainly from the wage gap by gender and women’s under-representation in politics, in sharp contrast to Finland.”