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Over 20,000 Japanese Women Sign #KuToo Petition To Ban Compulsory High Heels At Work

Image Credits: Japan Times

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Elegant, fashionable and appropriately formal – that is how high heels are advertised to working women. For most, it has become an integral element of their corporate jobs as their office dress codes mandate them to appear in high heel pumps and work around in those throughout the day.

Though high heels might reign in the style charts, almost all women across the world will unanimously agree that the shoes are extremely inconvenient, uncomfortable and painful if worn for prolonged hours. Doctors also recommend avoiding high heels as much as possible since it may lead to sprains, lower back pain, sore feet, nervous disorders and even crooked feet.

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The scenario is perhaps the worst in Japan, where almost all working women are instructed to wear high heels, irrespective of their job profile. Even though some firms do not have explicit mandates for the same, many women still wear heels to work to cater to social & professional expectations. However, nearly 20,000 Japanese women have recently signed an online petition titled #KuToo seeking a government ban on “requiring female employees to wear high heels on the job,” stated Reuters.

The campaign was started by Yumi Ishikawa

The campaign was launched by 32-year-old Yumi Ishikawa whose part-time job at a funeral parlour compelled her to wear high-heels. In Japanese, ‘Kutsu’ refers to shoes, and ‘Kutsuu’ means pain. The campaign name – #KuToo – blends both the words in alignment with the globally popular #MeToo campaign by women.

Ishikawa coined the hashtag while voicing her grievances in a tweet which soon went viral and were acknowledged by thousands of women in the country. Soon, it assumed the stature of a substantial campaign and a petition was launched which garnered 20,000+ signatories within a short time.

She mentioned in her petition appeal how high heels are responsible for feet disorders like bunions, blisters and even pain in the lower back. “It’s hard to move, you can’t run and your feet hurt. All because of manners,” she wrote in the petition. Ishikawa also revealed that almost all women inevitably change to comfortable shoes like sneakers or flats after work hours. She also alleged that the norms are lopsided since men are not mandated to any such painful dress diktats.

Japan health minister defends high heels as “necessary & appropriate”

Ishikawa has designated her campaign as a fight against gender discrimination. It is mention-worthy here despite unprecedented economic progress as a nation, Japan fares quite low in the gender-equality index of World Economic Forum. It has a deplorable rank of 110 among 149 countries.

The initial response from Japan’s Health and Labour minister Takumi Nemoto has delved quite an unexpected blow to the hopeful signatories, as he defended the norm of wearing high heels as “necessary and appropriate”, reported The Guardian. On June 5, Wednesday, while addressing the issue before a legislative committee, Nemoto said, “It is socially accepted as something that falls within the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate.”

Previous protests – at Cannes & the UK

Incidentally, Japanese women are not the pioneers of the movement against high heels. In 2015, controversy brewed up at the popular Cannes Film Festival as women celebrities without high heels were denied access to the red carpet. Despite protests from Hollywood A-listers like Julia Roberts, Cannes has continued to maintain the inconvenient dress code.

In 2016, British woman Nicola Thorp launched a similar petition after her workplace refused her entry for denying to wear high heels. Though a parliamentary investigation was conducted on gender-discriminatory dress codes at workplaces, the British government rejected the bill which prohibited companies from demanding women to wear high heels to work.

Efforts For Good take

There was a time in the past when Japanese businessmen were compulsorily expected to wear neckties to the workplace. But, the government did away with the awkward norm in 2005, as a part of their ‘cool biz’ campaign to provide a comfortable dress code to male employees. However, the scenario for women regarding high heels has not changed, though high heels are medically way more harmful and uncomfortable than neckties.

Many of the petitioners are comparing the norm for high heels with the brutal medieval practice of foot-binding, or even the French norm of wearing crushing corsets to maintain a slender physique.

Efforts For Good hopes corporate firms across the world take cognisance of the grievances of their women employees and mustn’t overwhelm them with unnatural dress codes that can take a toll on their health.

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Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
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Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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Quote
It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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