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NEWS RELEASE: Soroptimist helps women in Japan

International organization grants $60,000 to help Japan women devastated by massive earthquake and tsunami  

September 28, 2011
Contact: Kamali Brooks, Public Relations Manager
215-893-9000 x130/

Philadelphia, PA—On March 11, a massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit the eastern side of Japan. This earthquake and the tsunami that followed killed hundreds of people and destroyed thousands of lives. A second earthquake that hit April 7 at a magnitude of 7.4 further destroyed the region, leveling many of the buildings that survived the first life-shattering quake. The people of Japan continue to pick up the pieces and deal with the havoc these disasters wreaked.

Soroptimist International of the Americas, an international volunteer organization of business and professional women dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, recently presented three Soroptimist Disaster Grants for Women and Girls totaling nearly $60,000 to three Soroptimist groups in Japan to provide recovery and support to women and girls who suffer disproportionately during times of disaster. Single Soroptimist Disaster Grants range from $1,000 to $20,000 and assist women who have been victims of natural disasters or acts of war.

Soroptimist has about 12,430 members and 520 clubs in Japan. The Soroptimist clubs in Japan are using these grants to help local women and girls:

Soroptimist International of Fukushima
Since 1986, Fukushima Soroptimists have provided scholarships to girls to help them further their education. Because of the earthquake, many girls lost their parents, houses and possessions. At a time when uncertainty is high, the club hopes to bring stability and hope back into these girls’ lives. The club received a $19,500 grant, which it will divide among four affected high school girls to help them continue their education. “We believe these scholarships will not only help the girls with their futures, but will also help the future of the Tohoku region,” said club president, Yoshiko Iwasaki. “These girls may become leaders in the field of economics, medicine or education, and may one day be able to help the Tohoku region recover.”

Soroptimist International of Sendai
Sendai Soroptimists will address the hidden needs and concerns of women disaster victims who were forced to live in evacuation centers. “There are many issues that need to be addressed very carefully,” said club president, Mitsuko Takano. “In these shelters, there is no privacy, there is a lack of personal hygiene items for women, and domestic violence is prevalent.” The club will use the $20,000 grant to procure personal hygiene and other useful items for the women staying in shelters. Club members will organize gatherings at local salons giving women a relaxing environment in which to discuss concerns related to the disaster, while drinking tea, getting hand massages and doing crafts. The club will also work with other organizations that have experience with women’s rights and financial independence to help create employment opportunities for these women.

Soroptimist International of Higashi Region
Soroptimist International of Higashi Region will use its $20,000 grant to help raise awareness of the fact that sex crimes and violence against women increase after disasters strike. “After the earthquake, woman and girls in the affected areas are forced to live in evacuation centers and walk down dark streets without lights. These women feel that the issues of domestic violence and sex crimes is an immediate concern,” said Soroptimist Region Governor Sumi Takahashi. “Therefore, now is the best time to effectively raise awareness of this issue.” Higashi Region clubs will partner with Polaris Project Japan, an organization that works on issues such as human trafficking and other forms of violence against women. Together they will print and distribute more than 50,000 domestic violence hotline cards to woman and girls throughout the area. They also plan to provide 1,000 alarm whistles to those without access to a telephone, and more than 2,500 aid items such as soap, cream and cleansing cloths. 

“These clubs in Japan are really doing their part to help women and girls after one of the worst disasters in recent years,” said Soroptimist President Pat Donohue. “Women and girls are particularly vulnerable during disasters. They lack mobility and access to resources, have increased family responsibilities, and are susceptible to physical danger. Soroptimist's disaster grants mitigate the barriers facing women and girls during disasters, making it easier for them to get the resources they need to survive.”

Soroptimist has long been concerned about the disproportionate effects of disasters on women and girls. In addition to providing Disaster Grants, Soroptimist funded a research study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), titled “Women in the Wake of the Storm: Examining the Post-Katrina Realities of the Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast,” available at: <>. The study found that women faced and continue to confront special challenges to their health, safety, and economic wellbeing in the lingering aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; that they were at an increased risk of exposure to sexual assault and domestic violence; and that women encounter greater economic hurdles when rebuilding their lives after disaster strikes.

Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., Soroptimist is a cause-related philanthropic federation of clubs improving the lives of women and girls through social and economic empowerment. With 37,000 members in 19 countries and territories, its major program, the Soroptimist Women’s Opportunity Awards, provides cash grants for women seeking to improve their lives with the help of additional education and training. The organization also sponsors the Live Your Dream Campaign in recognition of the power of women and their dreams. Visit the Campaign’s online home at





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