The Empowerment of the Women in the Kanagawa Seikatsu Club Movement

Im Jo

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis explores the empowerment of women in a social movement, the Kanagawa Seikatsu Club Movement, in Japan. The discourse on women‟s empowerment has tended to concentrate on projects in the development context and has usually focused on personal empowerment, even when collective empowerment is taken into account (Rowlands, 1997). However, this research shows that women‟s involvement in a social movement can be a powerful mechanism for their empowerment because of the generation of collective empowerment, even though this is not the purpose of the movement. It also highlights the fact that not only are there positive interactions between the different dimensions of empowerment, personal, relational and collective, but there are also conflicts between them.
Interpretations of women‟s movements based on their traditional roles and identities as wives and mothers are divided as to whether they reinforce or challenge the position of women. The Kanagawa Seikatsu Club Movement is almost forty years old and most of its members are full-time housewives. It provides an excellent opportunity to show how activism based on their traditional gender roles and identities can empower women over time. This thesis develops an analytical explanation, based on a discussion of the public/private dichotomy, to show how the contradictions inherent in this activism can push the women beyond or pull them back to their existing gender roles and consciousness.
In this context, the internal dynamics of a movement, which depend on its power politics, can determine which direction the women will take and have an impact on their empowerment. Women are not a homogeneous group and a dominant group, from a specific class or who have a particular ideology, can come to determine the movement‟s policies. A further point of interest is that the Kanagawa Seikastu Club Movement was created by a group of men who have played an important part in empowering the women. However, these men have also played on the differences between the women resulting in alliances which can disempower other women.
The research combines quantitative and qualitative methods, including a membership survey along with sixty-four interviews and seventeen focus groups. I also conducted participant observations. It reveals the complex processes and interactions which contribute to the empowerment of women in a social movement. It seeks to understand who is empowered and what this means for the wider society. It also shows how the movement is affected by changes in the wider society and how the response to these challenges can affect its members‟ empowerment.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Desai, Vandana, Supervisor
  • Willis, Katie, Supervisor
Award date1 Sept 2011
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011

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