WOMEN

HuffPost Her Stories: How Women In Japan Are Making Food Safer

Plus: Where women are training to be mosque leaders.
Seikatsu Club hosts a tasting event to introduce producers and cooperative members.
Seikatsu Club hosts a tasting event to introduce producers and cooperative members.

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Dear reader,

I’m a sucker for stories about solutions — particularly now, when so much in the world seems to be broken. So this week, I loved reading about the women in Japan who took matters of food safety into their own hands.

Freelance journalist Daniel Hurst reported for HuffPost U.S. on Japan’s Seikatsu Club, a food cooperative that housewives launched in the 1960s after a string of food safety scandals. Today, the cooperative boasts nearly 400,000 members (90 percent of whom are women) and is as relevant as ever.

Consumers who are still wary about the effects of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power disaster flock to these women for assurance that the food they’re buying is safe. Seikatsu Club products meets radiation standards twice as strict as the government’s — although, in a sign of how seriously members take their mission, they don’t refer to their offerings as “products.”

“I found it interesting that Seikatsu Club — which has always seen producers as equal to consumers in the food supply process — is quite deliberate in the language it uses to describe what it sells,” Daniel said. “Seikatsu Club ... uses the term ‘shouhizai,’ which means materials for consumption.”

Daniel also explained why women have always made up the bulk of the cooperative’s membership. “Women in Japan typically take charge of household finances and, while social norms are gradually changing, often do the bulk of grocery shopping,” he said. “As my piece ... explains, a series of food safety scandals in Japan’s post-World War II industrial boom had eroded consumers’ trust in existing standards. The women involved in the Seikatsu Club were determined to take prompt action to feed their family safe food at an affordable price.”

And so they did, setting an inspiring example of what women can do when they decide to stop tolerating a problem.

Until next time,

Emily

For more solution-based stories, check out HuffPost’s This New World series, which highlights “progress toward building a fairer world.” And sign up for its newsletter here.

For more on Japan’s Seikatsu Club, Daniel recommends this blurb from the Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York City and Michael Menser’s “We Decide!: Theories and Cases in Participatory Democracy.

HuffPost U.K. spoke with one of the 20 women training to take on leadership roles in British mosques. Last year, the Muslim Council of Britain began offering training to up-and-coming female leaders in an effort to address a lack of diversity on mosque management boards. According to the group, more than one-quarter of the 1,975 mosques in Britain don’t even have a prayer area for women. The idea behind the initiative is that more women in decision-making roles can lead to mosques becoming more inclusive places. Perhaps surprisingly, trainee Maysoon Shafiq told HuffPost U.K. that she anticipates the most pushback from women, but she said she’s determined to win them over. “It’s about changing their mindset so that they recognize that they can have influence and help shape the workings of their local mosque,” she said.

A sex-trafficking victim sentenced to life in prison for killing a man who solicited her for sex when she was 16 was granted clemency this week after a national outcry over her case. Advocates of criminal justice reform, including a handful of celebrities who pushed for Cyntoia Brown’s release, saw in her case the sort of systematic flaws that punish rather than help victims of poverty, violence and trauma. They’re buoyed by her release, HuffPost U.S.’s Melissa Jeltsen reports, but still fighting for the “countless other Cyntoia Browns in prison because of acts they took to survive.” Melissa’s story on the “other Cyntoia Browns” paints a sobering picture on the way trauma drives the population of women in U.S. prisons.

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