(Edit July 2019: The video I originally pasted was deleted, so I replaced the video)
This is an MV of the performance by the dance club of Tomioka High School. This Japanese high school has won many times at all-Japan championship of high school dance clubs.Tomioka High School is a public school in my hometown. Some of my friends studied there. It's a very ordinary high school, they don't gather talented kids from all over Japan by the power of money like private high schools.
Nowadays, many parents in Japan let their kids learn dance from childhood targetting professional entertainers. Some such trained kids join Tomioka High School dance club as well. But many first-timers are also selected into its "first team", the cream of the crop.
In this high school, the student guidance in the club activities is done by its own teachers as a part of education, and the dance training is outsourced to a professional choreographer. Lead by this choreographer, previous club members have pushed this school to Japan's highest level.
I don't think you can find kids with natural talent this many in any ordinary public high schools. It means that one can target, even as a rookie, to be the best in Japan, if a trainer never drops the target level (the choreographer told so at an interview) and one makes a huge effort with a strong belief in oneself.
(This image is not of Tomioka High School)
Applicable To Women's Empowerment?
While watching this video, I recalled another thing.
* Day-dream alert!
From here, I am only writing my personal impression from publications on the internet and a day-dream based on my pure imagination. Please note this while reading...
Recently I had an opportunity to make a research on NGOs who give sewing skill training as a women's empowerment project.
In some NGOs, women were making home decors. In some, clothes.
Some products were really nice I got an urge to buy, while some products were not so attractive to be competitive in the free market.
What I felt was the difference in the directions among the NGOs.
Some NGOs seemed to think that the project itself means a lot to the women to gain confidence (it's true), and they sell their work when possible, probably to those who support the activities of the NGO.
Some NGOs seemed to think "we make sellable stuff and make money". They were selling their products aggressively on their website, Facebook, Instagram, etc., just like 'ordinary' brands. Not so hard to guess they plot some market strategies as well.
Of course, each NGO has a different background, purpose, history, and size. So here is only my personal day-dream:
If a group of amateur women was trained with the idea (of the organisation/trainer) "this much can be achieved by anyone", their level would hardly go up above the level "please buy these products made by underprivileged women".
With the idea "they should learn to the level where they earn themselves", their level goes up to where they can wholesale their products. Women might be able to find jobs at sewing factories.
And with the idea "NGO or rookie doesn't matter. To whoever wants to become an independent creator, we train to that level"? Some women would result as such creators, would they? The NGO's new task would be to help such creators' exposure and independence by PR and connections.
Do you think such thing happens in women's empowerment projects?
I think probably it applies to the mindset of the parents or school teachers towards the kids/students.
Even with a great trainer, if the students don't believe in themselves and keep their target level high, they don't reach high. Also, even if the trainer wants to raise Japan's best high school dance club or global designers, the trainer cannot force the students to share the same target level, because the very high targets made by others don't look achievable to the person.
Why could the 'ordinary' kids in Tomioka High School target a very high level? Why could they believe in themselves that they could achieve it? I think that's because they saw the precedents.
The choreographer discusses with the students (new group every year, obviously, with 12th Standards leaving and 10th Standards joining) for a long time at the beginning of the school year and lets them fix their own goal. The students themselves set very high goals like "to win the championship of all-Japan high school dance clubs".
Most of their seniors were not geniuses, and some of them were even beginners. Since the students saw such seniors achieving their high goals, they think "if I follow this trainer and make the hardest effort, even rookies like me might be able to get there".
For women's empowerment, too, role models must be important. For example, if you see a senior who finally started her brand after coming from a very similar background as yours and being trained from scratch, you would feel "maybe it's not impossible for me".
(I know, there are always people who prepare hundreds of excuses like "she could do it because she was so-and-so". People with this mentality would never make efforts and don't reach anywhere...)
(This image is not related to any NGOs nor MIRCHI KOMACHI)
Working at a sewing factory, for example, might be the first step toward the financial independence for women who otherwise never got her own money. But I'd like them to know that it is not the final goal.
Though the steps and goals are not the same for all women, at least I don't want them to settle at a sweatshop as "low-cost labour" for Western fast fashion brands.
I hope NGOs or trainers first believe that their trainees can target the level to compete with big/global brands or at least to stand at the same starting line as privileged people who graduated good technical colleges. And let the trainees know that.
If a woman, fully aware of such possibility, feels working at a (good) sewing factory is the best for her life plan, that's the best target for her.
I imagine that the skill training requires not only the 'skill' training but also the mind training to believe that trainees can target high.
Again, this is only a personal thought by me who has never worked for NGOs. I would appreciate if you could point out about my ignorance or misunderstanding, though I am aware that you don't want to spend time on educating me...
I am willing to work with woman artisans in the near future, to collaborate and make marvellous clothes, to see them earn money and independence and respect. I wouldn't be their trainer, but I want to be their strange new friend who helps them believe that they can always go beyond.
Two boys from unwealthy families became ballet dancers and got a scholarship to join a dance academy in NY.
In their case, a teacher discovered their natural talent and started training them.
If you want to know more, here's a VR film as well: