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An extraordinary exchange program: Natascha in Japan

Natascha’s visit in the “Ritsurin Garden” in Kagawa, a Prefectur in Japan.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to travel. I find it even better if my journey has a deeper meaning and lasting effect, for example by participating in an exchange.

In December 2022, I joined a professional exchange in Japan with the “International Youth Development Exchange Program” (INDEX). Together with delegations from Estonia and Japan, we discussed the use of IT for social development. The Delegations from the Dominican Republic and Mexico discussed disaster management with another Japanese delegation. The time in Japan was filled with many discussions, presentations and cultural impressions.

As an intombi girl, I naturally looked at my environment with a Girls for Girls perspective. I asked myself the following questions:

As a young woman, what can I contribute to an exchange program and are there topics that are particularly important for women?

My girls for girls moment in Japan

During our visit to a university, some female students and I discussed participation in politics and society. We were told by the young people that they feel a great pressure to adapt to society and not to stand out negatively in the crowd. For example, young people may not get a job or lose their jobs because they took part in a demonstration or publicly shared an unwanted opinion through a petition. The young women at the university felt that an online system like the one in Estonia could help them to gain courage and express their opinions. By example of Estonia we learned that they have the possibility to implement votes completely online. In the case of a vote, your own opinion and vote can be changed until the end of the election.

Through the exchange, I had the opportunity to get to know many strong women, including participants, but also the young women in the background who implemented the program on a voluntary basis. These included women who work for their governments and other young experts from various organizations. I had the impression that many of the women particularly showed themselves as strong. They added important topics, for example how IT is used in society for women and how IT can support equality.

My personal takeaways from the exchange

First and foremost, I am pleased that I have mastered all the challenges and program points of the exchange. In the discussion rounds, I noticed that I can lead discussions in a group full of experts. I did reach my limits because the work mentality in Japan is a bit different than in Germany. Due to the intensity of the program, I fell into a microsleep a few times in a lecture. In Japan, however, this is apparently fortunately socially accepted and shows that hard work was done.

Trust in yourself – My tips for other girls and young women

We can use digital opportunities to network and exchange ideas with other girls and young women beyond our own country. This can be done by a formal exchange, like INDEX, which was carried out hybrid, or via an online magazine like here at intombi. The biggest obstacle is space and language. Let’s use the same social networks so that we consciously stay in touch with each other, share stories and build friendships. Technologies such as online translators can help us with this.

In our German delegation we were only two young women. I wish that more women would dare to participate in such programs. Sometimes the topics might seem abstract or we don’t feel qualified enough for the topic. First and foremost, you take part in an exchange to learn from the other participants and the other countries. If you can then share your experience and knowledge, it’s the cherry on the cake.

In which country would you like to join an exchange with people your age?

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