U.S.-Japanカウンシルが主催する女子学生のリーダーシッププログラム「TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program」のアニュアルカンファレンスで基調講演の機会をいただきました。
１）5 minutes about you and your personal leadership story
２）5 minutes about what your businesses is and how it helps families in Japan
３）5 minutes about how you made that business happen, including the challenges you faced and how you overcame them
Hello everyone. My name is Maco Yoshioka. I'm the founder and executive director of MadreBonita, a business that supports new mothers' mental and physical health after childbirth.
Today as we gathered to exchange ideas about women's leadership I would like to share with you the idea of authentic leadership I recently learned. It may sound strange but until recently I did not identify myself as a leader or an entrepreneur.
I started MadreBonita almost 19 years ago in 1998. How did MadreBonita start? All I did was that I identified a hidden need in society and I pursued an idea that I had to address that need.
There was no postpartum healthcare back in 1998 when I first had my baby. If there is no postpartum healthcare, then why don't I create it? That's how I started MadreBonita.
I have various titles now: founder, director, representative, postpartum healthcare trainer. I’m usually too busy to think about my title. I do whatever I have to do at any situations.
For the past few years I am honored to participate in some very prestigious leadership programs for social leaders who run non-profit organizations.
These events have provided good opportunities for me to interact with other leaders and learn about what is needed of us.
We learned from each others. Sometimes our mentors helped us and inspired us.Now I have some idea of what leadership actually is and what it really takes to be a leader.
From my 19 years of experience, I now realize that what is expected of me as a leader is not only to lead people or manage the organization well but what is really needed is for me to INSPIRE people, to inspire them by seeing and showing them my vision of the future, a society which is better than the existing one, inspire them by trying to fill a gap by taking action.
Authentic leadership means overcoming the fear of being the first one to do something that no one has ever done. A person becomes a leader for the first time when compassionate followers start to appear. The first step is very small. So small that no one ever notices it at first. Even though no one seems to notice, it’s your chance to practice and polish your ideas and activities. Then, the followers start to appear. Some become good partners some might approach you to take advantage of you and disappear once they think they’ve taken enough.
Madre Bonita supports the mental & physical health of mothers after childbirth by providing a holistic fitness program designed for women and families. We focus not only on physical fitness but also on the mental wellness of mothers. We have 60 clasees in 16 prefectures in Japan.
MadreBonita gained non profit status in 2008. Now we have more than 500 support members, 300 volunteers, 10 staff , and 28 certified trainers. My experience and what I felt after childbirth seemed relatable to them. And, now, we are part of a growing movement of expanding postpartum care to Japan.
When you look at the Japanese maternal healthcare paid at public expense, for expectant mothers there is a free parenting class, regular checkups, a lot of information. The National Health Insurance takes care of the cost of birth. For babies free immunizations, free checkups, free medical care. But there is almost nothing for mothers.
Lack of maternal care for new mothers leads to many problems after having a child such as postpartum depression, relationship stresses, and child abuse. It’s become a phenomenon we can no longer overlook.
We believe that if parents get ready not only for the expected babies but also for their own maternal health after the birth, It gets much easier and more enjoyable for us to start a family.
We also notice that women after childbirth tend to be deprived of their dignity for some reason. Expanding postpartum care can solve that problem, too we believe.
In 1998 I gave birth to my first son. I was a graduate student at Tokyo university studying sports science.
I was always curious about the human body and its influence on our mental health. To me, pregnancy and childbirth was the most interesting thing that ever happened to my body and mind. But soon I had to face the harsh reality I wasn’t expecting.
The doctor told me that the baby was growing well so there was nothing to worry about. But I myself was feeling very unstable and exhausted after giving birth. Everyone’s attention was on the baby. The mother was left alone with pain and fatigue.
Here is what mothers actually face. Many of us do not want to believe it. But it’s true. It is so painful that women themselves are not willing to talk about the experience. That’s how the issue has been overlooked instead of the wisdom being handed over.
I was surprised for 2 reasons. First of all because there is no support system or professionals to help mothers & families recover their health and strength. Secondly I had never been informed of what would happen to my body and mind after childbirth. It was never taught at school or hospitals. Because everyone’s attention including mother’s was on baby. So mothers tend to be overlooked. Even though the mother is crucial to the baby’s life.
I first started a postpartum class for women with babies when my baby was 6 month old. It was in fact for myself who was also a woman after childbirth. I kept holding the classes even after my postpartum period had become a past. So many women came up to me and said the class saved their lives. Not only themselves also their babies and their husbands. I was convinced by then that physical and mental fitness of mothers benefits the whole family
My son is now 19 years old. What I experienced 19 years ago was a strong motivation for me to pursue the vision of MadreBonita.
But our memory is not reliable. We do forget.
If I didn’t start MadreBonita I’m sure I would have forgotten the hard time after childbirth and wouldn’t have talked about it. This tendency is still a big challenge to us when we persuade the necessity of postpartum care.
The only difference from 19 years ago is that now I am a leader with passionate supporters and colleagues who care about expanding postpartum care in Japan and believe in the importance of respecting womens’ dignity.
This speech is approaching to the end.
I am going to wrap up by telling you what I would like you to remember.
I would like you to remember that the first step is very small.
When you take the first step you have complete freedom to imagine an ideal future. Some might say you are naïve, others might say you are a dreamer. But you are not the only one,
I was all alone when I started.
Soon some empathetic people started to gather.
Also many people left.
But we did not give up.
When people leave we tend to get too emotional. But it gives us good lesson.
It is our chance to look into our criteria and make them clear.
Now we are not only colleagues but also proud professionals mutually brushing each other.
the first step is very small.
Whatever people say to you you have complete freedom to live your life and pursue whatever you believe.
That leads to your authentic leadership I believe.
This is the end of my story.
Thank you very much.