Mama Festivals in Rikuzentakata

Mama Festivals were held with the purpose of bringing mothers from Rikuzentakata and other regions a child-friendly community and space to share their skills and interests.

Additional information





Location: Rikuzentakata, Japan

Organization: Mama Powerspots in Rikuzentakata


About the Wise Practice

In post-disaster Tohoku, Japan (2011), “Mama Festivals” were held 4 times with the purpose of bringing mothers from Rikuzentakata and surrounding communities to join a child-friendly space and share their skills and interests. Rather than remain ensconced within childrearing and housework, Mama Fest participants visited over 20 women-led booths (flower arranging, tea circle, handicrafts, baby massage etc) and were welcomed in a space that gives mothers permission to seek happiness. Over 20 booths were presented at Mama Fest, yet many of these women’s skills had not previously found positive outlets in the region. Participating mothers are valuing their pre-and post-childbirth skills/talents have realized that their own fulfillment is of benefit to their children. Mama Fests have provided women an opportunity to re-discover their individual voice, participate in the community, and build connections with other mothers in a child-friendly space.


Categories & Goals

  • Governance & Leadership
    • Goal 2Strengthen the interface among stakeholders, offering opportunities for dialogue, including through age- and gender- responsive approaches, with particular attention to contributions from women and others (NUA 42).


  • Health
    • Goal 1: Promote a safe, healthy and secure environment in cities taking into consideration that women and girls and persons in vulnerable situations are often particularly affected (NUA 39).


  • Diversity & Inclusion
    • Goal 1: Embrace diversity in cities and human settlements, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status, to strengthen social cohesion, intercultural dialogue and understanding, tolerance, mutual respect, gender equality and inclusion (NUA 40; SDG 10.2).
    • Goal 2: Strengthen the interface among stakeholders, offering opportunities for dialogue, including through age- and gender-responsive approaches, with particular attention to contributions from men and women, children and youth, older persons and persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and local communities, refugees and internally displaced persons and migrants, regardless of migration status, and without discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, or socio-economic status (NUA 42,48,148, 155).


  • Infrastructure & Services
    • Goal 1: Promote equitable and affordable access to sustainable basic physical and social infrastructure for all, without discrimination, ensuring that these services are responsive to the rights and needs of women and girls and others that are in vulnerable situations (NUA 34, 119; SDG 6.2).



Within the context of a society confronting declining birthrates, Rikuzentakata has a small isolated population of 19,000 people, of whom roughly 40% (7000 people) are aged 65 years and over. Within one year, there are a mere 100 new births. The rate of aging of the community will only speed up in the near future. 1) Participants in Mama Fests, 2) numbers of booths featured at each festival, 3) number of women organizers and event leaders, 4) contagion to other organizations to create women and child-friendly activities and events, 5) Individual women organizing additional events across the region, 6) entrepreneurial spin-off businesses and self-employment arrangements pursued by participating mothers.



  1. Attendance in 4 Mama Festivals: 1100 people
  2. 20 women-led festival booths per Mama Festival
  3. The number of women with the capacity to be event leaders and organizers has increased from 2-3 women to 10 women
  4. There has been contagion to other spaces and organizations acknowledging the importance of supporting women and mothers and children. Childrearing organizations in the region now organize 1-2 annual outreach events that are held in multiple sites and locations across the city.
  5. Individual women are independently organizing up to 3-4 events per month across the city and region
  6. One woman has launched her own business; several women are building social entrepreneurial businesses.


Lessons Learned

  • Lesson 1: In the post-disaster context, large public works developments and commercial infrastructure were undertaken as reconstruction projects, however women were not included in these key decision-making spaces.
  • Lesson 2: To bring a transformation of mindset, we encouraged women to commit to finding their own pathway to happiness, rather than be boxed in by stereotypes that assume, “Because I am a mother”, “Because I have kids”, “mothers cannot do anything”. With the contribution of womens diverse activities, expertise, and perspectives, new possibilities for our community are emerging and will contribute to building a better future for our children as well.


Resources and More Information


Published: June 5, 2019

Updated: January 24, 2021