In line with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 5, "Gender equality," the formation of a gender-equal society, in which everyone can fully display their individuality and ability in any field regardless of gender, is one of the prime imperatives for the world to address. Japan is no exception, as women are expected to play a prominent role in every aspect of society.
Yet, the range of life events of women, such as childbearing and childrearing, profoundly affects their life and career paths. Furthermore, women experience frequent fluctuations in their health, partly due to female hormones, thus undergoing physical and mental changes as they proceed through life stages. As such, for women to shine/sparkle in society, they must understand such changes correctly and lead a balanced lifestyle, fully aware of the physical condition they happen to be in at a given time.
In support of women who endeavor to realize the life and career plans that they desire, OMRON HEALTHCARE co-organizes the Kagayaki (Sparkling) School visiting class program. Under this initiative, physicians visit high schools to provide young adults with the opportunity to gain a firsthand and correct understanding of women's health. In this article, we will be navigating you through this initiative geared toward future generations.
Kagayaki School is a free program in which gynecologists and other specialists are sent to high schools to give classes on women's health. Back in 2014, Bayer Yakuhin, Ltd. launched this educational initiative to contribute to an environment supportive of women's health and empowerment. Affirming this meaningful cause, OMRON HEALTHCARE joined forces with them in fiscal 2018, providing teaching materials tailored to high school students by tapping into the knowledge and know-how it gained from its experience organizing the "OMRON Style Beauty Project" in support of the beauty and health of women.
The class curriculum of Kagayaki School is crammed with tips for women to lead a fulfilled life every day, including such basic knowledge as the female body's functions and the effects of female hormones on their bodies, the changes in their minds and bodies in each of their life stages such as pregnancy, childbearing, and childrearing, and how to deal with conditions that affect their daily lives, such as dysmenorrhea and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). All these tips are designed for young women to understand their body's biology and to learn how to embrace it with grace over their lifetime. Normally, students have few chances to attend a class taught by doctors. Used as part of liberal arts education, Kagayaki School imparts accurate knowledge on this important topic.
Teaching the biology of the female body does not mean that male students are left out; they are included in these classes. If men understand how women's bodies work, it is hoped that it will help to foster mutual consideration, respect, and support for people of the opposite sex, their family members, friends from school, future partners or colleagues. Over the six years up to 2019, a total of 44,306 students from 165 schools took the classes, nearly 40% of whom were male students.
In a questionnaire survey given before classes, more than half of male students stated that they did not know menstruation can hinder women's everyday lives, indicating a less than satisfactory understanding of the changes in conditions and biology of women's bodies. In a follow-up questionnaire, however, it was apparent that the classes successfully conveyed the importance of health management and changed many students' attitudes, as about 80% of students claimed that they would try to be more attentive to caring for their (or their partners') bodies.
In a bid to spread this educational program to as many persons as possible, Bayer Yakuhin and OMRON HEALTHCARE have begun offering the classes online and reaching out to a broader audience.
In fiscal 2020, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they began offering classes online, decreasing temporal and geographical limitations, with the result that the number of attendees totaled about 6,000 from 19 schools. Furthermore, in response to voices from faculty members calling for the inclusion of health education in regular classes, they now offer Kagayaki School seminars catered to them, and some schools have organized classes of their own design.
The initiative has also gone beyond high schools to support related activities in the field of sports; members of the Cerezo Osaka Sakai Ladies U-23 football team have begun taking classes on what female athletes should know.
"There is a common issue that both coaches and athletes prioritize overtraining, which results in amenorrhea, lack of energy, and osteoporosis on the part of athletes. Our goal is to foster an understanding of how this will affect athletes now and in the future and have them consider how they can draw the best performance out of themselves. At the same time, we are hoping that they will gain correct knowledge, and by extension, a healthy mind and body for themselves in the future," says a member of the team from OMRON HEALTHCARE.
Going forward, OMRON will remain committed to supporting women's health and empowerment.