This was one of the initial questions that spurred action by a group of NIS high school students. The “Nagoya Action Heroes”, consisting of seven high school students, were inspired by the Blank Noise community/public art project that seeks to confront sexual harassment. Concerned not only with sexual harassment in society in general, Nagoya Action Heroes were also concerned with the lack of understanding and support for those in our own school community who come from many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, some of whom identify as queer, and some of whom are differently abled. They formed their group, and promptly planned a series of events and activities throughout the year to help spread their message. Soon they had a group of additional supporting students and teachers supporting them.
In recognition of International Women's Day on March 8, they organized a series of activities and prompts on social media throughout the week to help foster an awareness of and dialogue around sexual harassment, and a focus on the right of women to reclaim public spaces that are often gendered.
Then, in April, the group led a session in the "Creating Connections" conference, the second annual conference held at NIS to shed light on a range of topics related to social and emotional support. The students led a session on tackling sexual harassment in gendered spaces. In their workshop they hoped to foster a dialogue about how to be an ally to sexual assault and harassment victims, and through group activities and discussions hoped that participants would learn how to tackle fear and build an environment of trust and empathy.
Later in April, the group visited Osaka to attend a meeting of SIETAR Kansai (Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research), co-sponsored with Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara JALT chapters and GALE SIG (Gender Awareness in Language Education), on the subject of Sexual Harassment. There, they received ideas and suggestions from SIETAR members, research scholars and educators, and also praise for their work on creating a safe space to talk about cultures of harassment within the school community.
This all led to perhaps their most powerful action - a drive to have a more inclusive sexuality education program at NIS. Currently, NIS does cover some topics related to sex education for certain grade levels, but does not have a comprehensive sexuality education framework for the whole school. Students gathered data by surveying parents, and made their proposal to the administration at the end of the school year for implementation in the 2018-2019 school year. The goal is to implement a program that would include an understanding of gender roles and identities, information on sexual anatomy and physiology and also information on how sexuality is related to well-being, how one’s sexuality interacts with family or community, how that makes one feel, and expressing one’s sexual identity. Additionally, their hope is that all NIS students will learn to recognize peer pressure, unhealthy relationships and abuse, and understand their bodies and the rights they have over their bodies.
We are grateful for the work that Nagoya Action Heroes has started, and we look forward to growing as a school community to be more understanding and supportive of everyone in our school community.