Continuing last year’s collaboration event, we, S.C.P. Japan, held an event with the Bridge Women’s Soccer Program on Saturday, March 5th, as a special event to celebrate International Women’s Day. The primary theme of this event was “Designing my life～how to authentically live your life”. We introduced the Bridge Women’s Soccer Program that will be presented at the 8th International Working Group (IWG) World Conference on Women and Sport. The event also included a session where a dialogue with the 35 participants took place – where they were divided into 7 groups with different topics.
Firstly Ms. Marika Fukuta, Ms. Satomi Yamaguchi, and Ms. Ayako Takematsu, who are the representatives of the Bridge Women’s Soccer Program, introduced the 8th IWG World Conference on Women and Sport, which will be held in New Zealand in November 2022. Additionally, they announced that the Bridge program was selected as one of the groups that will present at the conference.
In 1994, Brighton, UK, held the first IWG World Conference on Women and Sport, aiming to“encourage women to join various fields within sports”. Eventually, the conference was set to be held once every four years in various continents. In the 7th conference in the Republic of Botswana in 2018, the chief of the Japan Sports Agency presented about Japanese sports policy. As such, it would be a great opportunity for the Bridge Women’s Soccer Program to present at an international conference like this.
The concept of the Bridge Women’s Soccer Program is “being the bridge that connects Japan and the world using the tool ‘soccer’.” The Bridge Women’s Soccer Tour has been held for about 30 years, and the total number of participants is over 500. Additionally, the program has been supporting people who want to study abroad in the U.S. through women’s soccer, and around 50 people have achieved their studying abroad goals. The founders of the Bridge Women’s Soccer Program are Ms. Miyuki Kobayashi, and Ms. Kanae Haneishi. Ms. Kobayashi originally had been executing the women’s soccer tour abroad, and they added the “Bridge” portion by providing study abroad support as well when Ms. Haneishi joined the Program.
The Bridge’s motto is, “It doesn’t matter how well you play soccer. We support whoever has a strong will.” The Bridge believes that it is important to become independent through the study abroad experience. Therefore, in the process of preparation, they help people become independent, through the procedures like sending an application, and contacting the coach at the universities.
Also, the “Bridge family”, who are those that have taken part in the tour or have studied abroad through the Bridge program, have been engaging in various activities regardless of their batches. For example, after the Kumamoto earthquake, the Bridge members visited and contributed via fundraising. They have also visited one of the women’s soccer clubs in high school in Okayama, and gave a presentation for the students about studying abroad and careers, which was valuable as many students in the countryside have fewer access to these information.
In the Bridge family, there are many people who explore and expand their possibilities, and design their own life. Ms. Ayaki Shinada who studied abroad through the Bridge program is one of the examples. She is currently working as an Indigo Dyer using a Japanese traditional method, called Sho-Aizome, after her professional soccer career in Europe.
After introducing the 8th IWG World Conference on Women and Sport and the Bridge Women’s Soccer Program, we divided participants into 7 groups and had discussions about various topics. The group with the topic of “Childbirth, childcare, and my life”, shared their ideas about the importance of forgiving themselves for not being perfect, while sharing their struggles between childcare and jobs.
The group of “How do you make decisions in your life?”, mentioned that it was important to gather information and follow your heart when making your decision.
From the “LGBTQ+, Gender diversity” group, they shared the difficulty with living in the society where gender is seen as only as a dichotomy, either man or woman.
Ms. Kobayashi, one of the founders of the Bridge program, rediscovered the importance of the Bridge family connection, saying, “I’m happy that this event came from the Bridge family. We’d like to continue being active.” Also, Ms. Haneishi, who is also the founder, emphasized the significance of celebrating International Women’s Day, saying, “It will take a long time to make a change. But we can change it someday by being patient, have a strong mind, and take action together.”
Finally, each participant wrote down a note about “what you can start from tomorrow to design and live your own authentic life”, and we took a group picture with their notes. We appreciate the opportunity to be able to talk about what we have been pondering about individually.
Last but not least, thank you so much to those who participated in this event, the Bridge members who cooperated, and those who volunteered as a sign language interpreter.