Friday, 4 February 2011

Katsuko Nomura: a lifetime building the consumer movement

Last year a leading figure of the consumer movement passed away. Katsuko Nomura built consumer rights in Japan at a time when such an idea was foreign, leading to a Nobel Peace prize nomination. Read and watch two other prominent voices from the global consumer movement talk about her contribution.

Anwar Fazal:

Anwar Fazal will be speaking about more milestones in the consumer movement at ConsumersInternational World Congress 2011 in Hong Kong in May.

Ralph Nader:

Katsuko Nomura - a builder of consumer, labour, cooperative and women’s rights groups for over 55 years in Japan - passed away this month at the age of 99. She was one of the most remarkable civic leaders anywhere in the world. With her range of activities, she could be called a world citizen.

Born in 1910 in Kyoto, she lost her husband and many relatives and friends during World War II. Mrs Nomura witnessed crises everywhere, but she also saw vast opportunities for building a just and democratic society. This was no small feat in a male-dominated society under US military occupation.

She started her dynamic career building consumer cooperatives - a banding together that then was critical for families facing drastic shortages of life’s necessities. She took her experience and legislative success with the Cooperative League of Japan to become a founder of the Japan Housewives’ Association whose mass boycotts and marches challenged Japanese companies accustomed to very little government regulation.

She became a strong voice, especially for women, in the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan and helped found the Consumers’ Union of Japan, which she directed for over a decade.

All these formal associations cannot do credit to watching her in action. Well into her eighties, she aroused audiences of younger Japanese activists and prodded them to raise expectations for themselves as change-agents. She was often the toughest person at any gathering.

Neither US food exports to Japan of dubious safety, nor the injustices inflicted on less developed countries by Japanese multinationals escaped her pointed criticism and agendas for action. In 2005 she was nominated as one of ‘1000 women’ for the Nobel Peace Prize.

May her legacy be a source of self-renewing energy for many seekers of justice in this tormented world of ours. For she was the essence of resilient self-renewal.

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