Japan: Katsuko Nomura

My trick is to talk to people using ordinary language in an ordinary manner that allows them to relate to my cause. It's ineffective to raise yourself above the people whose support you want.

— Katsuko Nomura

Katsuko Nomura, called the pioneer of Japan's NGO movement, has helped to ensure social justice for Japan's citizens for more than half a century. She began her work by lobbying for a consumer cooperative law, which was passed in 1948. She went on to establish a Livelihood Cooperative Association, laying the groundwork for the development of co-ops, and founded the Women's Occupational Association and the Laborers' Families' Organization. She established the Information Center for Public Citizens and worked there until 1998, when she retired at age 87.

From her youth, Katsuko Nomura was appalled by the poverty she saw in the Nishijin neighborhood in Kyoto, Japan. Her family supplied tools to weavers, who lived in destitution as they created beautiful kimonos for the wealthy. Katsuko's family, moderately well-off and liberal, encouraged her to attend university, which was exceptional for Japanese girls in the 1930s. Katsuko took advantage of the opportunity and enrolled at Doshisha University, where she studied ethics and social work. In 1944, when people were evacuating to other areas of Japan during the aerial attacks by the US military, Katsuko went to Kokyo to work for the Eto Consumers' Cooperative. Her passion to change the lives of people living in poverty began to bear fruit in 1948, when she lobbied for a consumer cooperative law, giving consumers more rights. Nomura went on to establish organizations that developed cooperatives, trained and educated women, and changed the inhumane conditions of mine workers. The goal of her most recent organization, the Information Center for Public Citizens, is to facilitate the exchange of information about citizens' movements among Japan and other nations, especially countries in Asia.

Livelihood Cooperative Association Women's Occupational Association Laborers' Families' Organization