Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative Brings Together Women Leading Social Change

October 18, 2016 at 6pm - 9pm


JWLI Founder Atsuko Fish addresses the audience

On October 18, the Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative (JWLI), which aims to empower Japanese women to become leaders who create positive social change and innovation, hosted the JWLI 2016 Tokyo Summit. Approximately 300 women from the public, private and nonprofit sectors in Japan and the United States gathered to hear from leaders and network with one another. USJC supported the Summit, and Irene Hirano Inouye, President of USJC, spoke on a panel during the plenary session.

JWLI was founded by Atsuko Toko Fish, who is Trustee of the Fish Family Foundation as well as a USJC Board Member. Every year, JWLI selects four Japanese women to participate in a four-week leadership development program in Boston, where they learn best practices of nonprofit management and operation.

Council Leader Mari Kuraishi, Co-Founder of GlobalGiving, delivered the keynote speech

This Summit marked the tenth year anniversary of JWLI. During the Summit, women leaders in the social sector shared their success stories and challenges, and provided a unique opportunity for the participants to learn about social innovation and philanthropy. During the opening session, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy greeted the audience in a video message, and the Japanese Minister in charge of Women's Empowerment (as well as Minister of State for Measures for Declining Birthrate and Minister of State for Gender Equality) Katsunobu Kato encouraged women to continue furthering their career while leading social change in Japan.

As a panelist, Irene Hirano Inouye shared the impact the TOMODACHI Initiative has had on program participants, as well as the difference between fundraising in the United States and Japan, and the importance of developing partnerships with donors and implementers. She also discussed the importance of public-private partnerships.

Irene Hirano Inouye (second from right) spoke on a panel

Many of the speakers discussed how it was important for Japanese women to gain confidence and expand their network in order to manage an NPO successfully. During the breakout sessions in the afternoon, the speakers touched upon fundraising skills, partnerships between private companies and nonprofit organizations, and lessons learned from their own personal experience.

Yumi Kuwana, who established Global Citizens Initiative and is a USJC Council Leader, explained that there are various ways to contribute, not only monetarily, but also by using resources such as time and talent.


At the closing of the summit, Larry Fish, Trustee of the Fish Family Foundation, cited the inspiring quote by Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Atsuko Toko Fish thanked the audience and wished the women leaders continued success.