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Girls Unlimited Program (2): Finding a clue to become a good leader

  • January 13, 2018
  • , Asahi , p. 33
  • JMH Translation

“She is so quick to speak up…”


In September last year, Minami Tokushima, 17, a second-year student at Meiji Gakuin Senior High School in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, participated in the “Girls Unlimited Program (GUP),” which the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo organized for the first time by targeting female junior and senior high school students in Japan. Soon after group discussions ended following a talk by astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, the 17-year-old senor high school student was surprised to see a junior high school student sitting next to her begin stating her opinion.


Minami was wondering what to say. Then, the junior high student there was already expressing her opinion and she was so brisk. “That was my first time not being able to state my opinion in front of others,” Minami said.


At school, Minami serves as president of the student council and actively leads other students, including both her classmates and juniors. Since she was younger, she has often taken up various leadership roles. When she was in the sixth grade of elementary school, she led the cheering squad during the school’s athletic meet. When she was in junior high school, she chaired the school’s executive committee of a graduation outing event. “I just did what I needed to do,” she recalled. But she thought to herself that she had managed to handle these roles well.


But when Minami became president of the student council in May last year, she hit the wall.  When the council met, about 20 members hardly set forth their opinions. She wanted them to freely propose ideas about the content of a questionnaire to be distributed to students at the end of the school quarter and other topics. They were not on bad terms with each other, but at the general meeting, they all remained silent.


“What is missing in me? What is a true leader?” When Minami kept asking herself, she came across the GUP.


During the program, Minami realized that she was feeling inferior to other participating girls she met for the first time and feeling shy about joining the conversation that had already taken place. She found herself being in a position different from before. “I was always looking at things from the same angle,” she said. “I have to break out of the shell before asking others to do what I want,” she added.


Now Minami takes the initiative in soliciting ideas whenever the school council meets, and she asks junior members about their ideas. At a general meeting, the council’s president and vice president propose their own ideas first. Then, several members form a group, and after their discussions, they present their opinions. She created these opportunities.


She softened up a bit. “I want to become a person who can draw the best of other people rather than only me saying something good,” she said. That is who she wishes to be like. In the future, she hopes that she will be on the side of GUP supporters and help out GUP participants.

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