Public health crusaders: Japanese women take the capital

Hundreds of Japanese women have been holding a sit in on the steps of the  of the Japanese capital demanding  that their government provide better relief for some 30,000 children exposed to nuclear radiation by the Fukushima meltdown.

“Official recovery policy focuses on decontamination rather than protecting the health of those most vulnerable – children and pregnant women,” activist Aileen Mioko Smith, of Green Action Japan, told the Inter Press Service.

She continued, “Our meetings with officials to force faster evacuation programmes for high-risk groups are only met with promises to clear radioactive waste. This is totally irresponsible.”

On Wednesday, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) admitted that one of the Fukushima reactors showed presence of radioactive material from a burst of nuclear fission, indicating new leakage. After the nuclear plant meltdown, the government of Japan lowered the acceptable radiation standard for Fukushima residents, purportedly to reduce the number of evacuees.

Smith said the new standards should be applied to vulnerable populations, like children and pregnant women. As we know, vulnerable populations are often most at risk after environmental disasters. Folks who are poor, ill, unable to evacuate, and/or disabled are at greater risk, as are children and the elderly. This is the new challenge of public health in the face of environmental disaster.

The protestors consisted of about 200 women from Fukushima. They sat for three days outside the Tokyo Office of Japan’s Ministry of C=Economy. They have also collected ore than 6,000 signatures from 47 prefectures to support their demands.

From IPS:

Rika Mashiko, an evacuee from Fukushima, explained that she joined the protests along with her seven-year-old daughter to show solidarity and to express her disappointment with the government. Her husband continues working in Fukushima to maintain financial stability. Mashiko left her organic farm in Miharumachi, 50 km from the damaged nuclear reactor, six months ago. She resides in Tama, a Tokyo suburb and works part-time to support herself and her daughter.

Here’s the chant that the women were singing outside the Ministry, during their sit-in:

Women Don’t Need Nuclear Power!
Women Will Protect the Children!
Women Will Change the World!

Word, y’all.

Photo via Fukushima Update.

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