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Politics

Japan's youngest woman mayor elated by Harris' historic leap

Her country still has far to go to achieve gender equality, Sawako Naito says

Sawako Naito was elected mayor of Tokushima in April at the age of 36. (Photo by Takeshi Hasegawa)

TOKUSHIMA, Japan -- Sawako Naito, mayor of this Japanese city on the island of Shikoku, is among the millions of women around the world who were inspired by U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' history-making victory speech Saturday.  

"I watched Harris' speech live, and I was nearly moved to tears," said Naito, who at age 36 is the nation's youngest woman mayor.

Naito was particularly touched by her words: "While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last." 

"She talked about the possibilities the next generation of children have, and I was thinking the exact same thing," Naito said.

Naito won the mayoral race this April, running as an independent to defeat a 64-year-old incumbent by about 2,000 votes.

Naito earlier attained prominence with a 2009 memoir chronicling her struggles with multiple sclerosis as a student at the prestigious University of Tokyo.

Japan currently ranks 121st out of 153 countries in the 2020 edition of the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report.

"We're still lagging far behind," Naito said of the ranking. "Japan and Tokushima need to break the glass ceiling."

"I hope that Japan produces female politicians and leaders who are younger than me," Naito said.

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