Interview with Osami Takeyama, Mayor of Sakai City, as it joins the UN Women Safe Cities Global Initiative

Date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014

On 19 March, 2014, Osami Takeyama, Mayor of Sakai, announced the city’s commitment to end violence against women and girls in public spaces. This brings to 17 the number of cities that have joined UN Women’s Safe Cities Global Initiative. In an interview, Mayor Takeyama outlines Sakai’s existing policies, plans under the initiative and his hopes to end violence against women and girls.

Q- Why is it important for your city to join the UN Women Safe Cities Global Initiative?

Mayor Osami Takeyama of Sakai City  Photo/Sakai City
Mayor Osami Takeyama of Sakai City, the first city in Japan to join the Safe Cities Global Initiative. Photo/Sakai City

A- The goal of UN Women’s Safe Cities Global Initiative coincides with my political commitment, which is both ongoing for many years, and which I reaffirmed during my recent election campaign. The City has deep affinity with the Global Initiative, which is based on respecting women’s human rights. It reflects our highly prioritized policy of building a Safe and Secure City of Sakai, making Sakai a city where all citizens enjoy living and want to stay. Our decision to join the Initiative was also inspired by the recommendation of the first Executive Director of UN Women, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, during her visit to Sakai City.

Q- What are the policies already in place in the city of Sakai that address the issues of gender equality, human rights and women’s and girls’ safety?

A- Sakai City introduced its Gender Equality Participation Plan more than 30 years ago, and since then it has reviewed its policies in every field from a gender perspective. In this process, we have enacted the Sakai City Ordinance for Promoting the Establishment of a Gender Equal Society and elaborated it systematically.

The Sakai City Master Plan – which shows the basic direction and initiatives for community development – includes a programme for “ensuring a safe and secure daily life”.

Our policy initiatives include several Ordinances to promote gender equality; to respect human rights in the community; to foster rights and participation of children and youth; to protect children from abuse, and to build safe, secure, and comfortable communities with citizen participation. Based on these Ordinances, we have enacted several plans – the Fourth Phase of the City of Sakai Equal Participation Plan, Basic Plan for Prevention of Spousal Violence and Protection of Victims, Sakai City Human Rights Policy Promotion Plan, and the Plan for Advancement of Children and Youth.

In addition to these policies and programmes, we also are implementing various measures addressing gender equality, community safety, children’s safety, prevention of bullying and other forms of violence against children, maternal health, and reproductive health and rights.

Sakai City Mayor shows to the press the formal letter from UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka Photo/Sakai City
Sakai City Mayor shows to the press the formal letter from UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka welcoming his commitment to end violence against women and girls. Photo/Sakai City

Q- In practical terms, what is the city of Sakai committing to as it joins the Global Initiative?

A- As every city participating in the Safe Cities Global Initiative, Sakai will carry out a Scoping Study on the issues of safety in public spaces, with a focus on sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls. The goal is to ensure that our plan of action is based on what we will learn from women and girls who navigate our city as they go to schools, work, recreational areas and use our city’s public transport.  

To this end, the city will set up a Steering Committee consisting of key stakeholders from the city government, police, women’s organizations and other representatives from civil society, and educational institutions – to discuss the issues, and to help identify a specific area for conducting the study. This process will ensure that our Safe City initiative is based on the issues that are defined by our women’s realities and on broad engagement of all stakeholders, especially women’s grass-roots activists and organizations such as the Sakai City Women's Organization.

Q- As Mayor of Sakai, what are your expectations in regards to ending violence against women and girls?

A- By joining the initiative, we hope that our existing policies and future programmes will become known as good practices among other municipalities in Japan as well as other nations and regions throughout the world. It is my hope to see that human rights of all women and girls are respected, along with the eradication of violence and harassment in both public and private spaces. I am hopeful that this will open a richer future for all humankind.