Ms. Ayako Kaino: “Never Feel Afraid to Raise Your Voice”
Celebrating International Women's Day-2022 with UNICEF Mongolia Deputy Representative
Ms. Ayako Kaino was appointed UNICEF Deputy Representative to Mongolia in February 2022. Prior to this appointment, Ms. Kaino served as Chief of Mazar-i-Sharif Field Office in UNICEF Afghanistan , where she managed overall UNICEF programme and operation of nine provinces of Northern Region. Under her leadership, the team focused on a holistic approach “leaving no one behind” in humanitarian and development contexts. Between 2018-2020 she worked as Partnerships Specialist in the UNICEF hosted-fund, Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, managing projects in Nigeria and Uganda and advocating for violence-free environment for children with Member States in New York. Prior to that, she supported children as a Child Protection Specialist in UNICEF Syria, Protection Project Manager in Danish Refugee Council Iraq, and Child Protection Office in UNICEF Sudan. Earlier in her career, Ms. Kaino managed Japan’s ODA policy for Algeria, Morocco, Syria and Gulf countries as Official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in 2016. Between 2014-2015, we contributed to social protection and livelihood emergency response as an Early Recovery and Livelihood Crisis Coordinator in ILO Philippines.
On March 8, 2022, International Women’s Day, Ms. Ayako Kaino gave an interview on UNICEF’s position on women and girls’ empowerment in Mongolia and shared her rich experiences from other parts of the world.
Which areas of intervention UNICEF highlights as crucial for women’s and girls’ empowerment in Mongolia?
Mongolia is a country with high enrollment and completion rate for girl’s education and high female representation in middle-management posts. However, there are still areas of concern in which UNICEF can make a long-term impact on girls’ and women’s empowerment: protection from abuse, neglect, and/or exploitation. Supporting the Government in providing continuous holistic assistance to survivors of violence, especially sexual exploitation and violence; creating safe living, working and studying environment in which girls and boys, women and men can enjoy their human rights and thrive, enabling their full potential, is paramount for UNICEF. Hence in collaboration with the Government of Mongolia, UNICEF continues strengthening the system of violence prevention and protection of victims of violence.
As UNICEF Deputy Representative in a country where women are notably underrepresented on the political level, how do you plan to empower young girls and advocate for their rights during this challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Given the high percentage of youth in Mongolia’s population, it is important to ensure engagement and participation of young people, especially girls, in decision-making processes. We live in an era powered with advanced online technologies that presents wealth of opportunities for the young people. These technologies even offer efficient child safeguards to be used by younger generations. At the same time, it is crucial to create more opportunities for youth for enhanced understanding of their rights and equip with online literacy. In an equitable society, an instrumental key to empower girls and women is to involve boys and men as active players.
Considering your previous work experiences in different humanitarian contexts, can you tell us about times when your work had an impact on gender equality?
When I was working in Afghanistan, one of the key challenges was low enrolment and completion of education, with around 2.2 million girlsl. Numerous barriers included lack of education facilities, limited number of female teachers, lack of understanding of importance of education, especially for girls, and most prominently, safety. UNICEF introduced Community-Based Education (CBE) programme which provided the 1st to 3rd grade education in one of the rooms in the community, taught by all female teachers. Girls were so excited for learning that they would attend school even in unsafe situations. One year of education is considered to raise the future wages by 3.9% on average. Through this CBE programme, UNICEF is contributing to the future of these Afghan girls.
What would you say to girls/women who wish to promote gender equality to be able to live in world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination?
I wish to address all girls and women: don't ever feel afraid to raise your voices, and never give up on your dreams. Envision the next 10 years and start where you can today!