MEET THE TEAM

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KOJI KIRIMURA

Social Business Consultant

"Born and raised in a peaceful town in the mountains of Tamba, I had always dreamed of playing an active part on the world stage from an early age. While working for a trading company, I began helping with outsourced production and purchase of cotton clothing in India and Southeast Asia. At that time, the words "fair trade" and "ethical fashion" did not exist, and consumers did not give a second thought to the source of materials.

However, many decades later, I became an Ojichan (old guy) and became aware of the child labour problem. I saw the story of the exploitation of children on ACE's website and it shook me. I was left shaken by knowing the existence of these children and realised I need to help. I now know and fully recognize that the problem of poverty hinders the sustainable development of the world and that child labour leads to on-going poverty and  increasing  disparity.

As an ACE representative, I would like to create opportunities for other people who, like myself, had not been aware of the what was going on in the supply chain and take action together".

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TOMOKO SHIROKI

Vice President

After establishing ACE, Tomoko went on to complete her Masters at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Having then developed a career in development consulting alongside her role at ACE, Tomoko has a strong background in consultation services for businesses which she further strengthened by completing the SA8000 basic social auditor training course. Since 2005, she has fully committed her time to ACE, and is hands-on in the organisation's project in Ghana, the Social Business team, consumer education and the promotion of international cross-sector collaboration and ethical business. Most recently, she contributed her expertise while working closely with the Ghanaian government to develop the “Protocols and Guidelines for Establishing Child Labour Free Zones in Ghana” that was officially launched in March 2020. 
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YUKA IWATSUKI

President

Yuka spent her childhood from the age of 14 to 16 years, living in Boston, U.S. After getting into Sophia university, Japan, she studies abroad in Miami University for 2 terms. Before returning to Japan, she travelled via Mexico where she came face-to-face with children who were out begging on the streets. This encounter led her to focus her Masters thesis on child labour and education for her MA in International Public Policy at Osaka University. She finally felt her real call to action in 1997, when Kailash Satyarthi was architecting the first ever Global March Against Child Labour in 1998, and wanted to initiate Japan’s participation.

 

She has gained experience in various roles including as an interpreter and serving as a fellow at Winrock International, working on the Best Practices Report for the CIRCLE project (2006). Since 2007, she has been working full-time for ACE. She has worn many hats, including as an adhoc lecturer at J.F. Oberlin University, leading the civil society campaign for the 2008 G8 Summit, and acting as the Chair of the 2019 Civil 20 Summit which led civil society organization's advocacy for the G20 Summit in Osaka. She currently serves as a Board Member of the Japan Ethical Initiatives, and of JANIC (Japan NGO Center for International Coorperation).

 
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YUKAKO NARITA

Deputy Managing Director

Yukako became interested in international NGO work during her time at university. She visited cities and villages across India where she saw first hand the harsh reality of the poverty within which children were living, a world so far removed from the environment she had grown up in. Education, she realized was the key to changing society. From then, she began to study social work in India and continued to build a career in the international NGO field.
"I am Deputy Managing Director, and I am also in charge of our field projects that withdraw children from child labour and support establishing independent villages that protect children's rights. I further promote children's rights and socially-responsible business relating to the cotton industry in Japan. "
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MASAKO OTA

Chief of Advocacy

"I took part in the Global March against Child Labour in Geneva in 1998, and have been working on the elimination of child labour since then. Mostly, my work focuses on research and managing projects regarding child labour and non-formal education, in particular in India and Pakistan.

At ACE, I am in charge of advocacy and wish to relay the voices of children in difficult circumstances to political leaders in Japan and across the globe in order to achieve social change. My aim is to create a world where every child, regardless of where they are born, can go to school, play and live a happy childhood."

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MIHOKO YAMASHITA

PR & Engagement 

Mihoko has been with ACE since 2009, having begun in IT she decided to move to the NGO field. 
Currently I look after the organization's database and the sale of our ethical chocolates. 
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AKIRA KONDO

Ghana Project Manager

Akira completed his master's at the Graduate School of International Development at Nagoya University, Japan. After working as an intern at Amnesty International at the Africa - Japan Forum, he was assigned to Ghana and Uganda as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer. He worked at the Japan Association for International Collaboration of Agriculture and Forestry (JAICAF), the National Agricultural Experimental Station Rehabilitation Project in Afghanistan, and Oriental Consultants Co., Ltd. (a local Operation Coordinator for infrastructure projects in Uganda).

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YUKO TAYANAGI

India Project Manager

During her time at university, Yuko had the opportunity to do an internship with an Indian NGO that rescues and protects the rights of street children. When she returned to Japan, she took part in a study share session tour in India organized by ACE, which further fuelled her interest in child labour.

"I have been working with ACE since 2015, and have been fortunate enough to be in charge of our community projects in the cotton hubs of India. I also promote organic and fair trade cotton in Japan, speaking at events at schools and for the public to educate consumers. We are working to encourage people in Japan to believe that child labour can be eliminated and to take action.

 

While working as an ACE staff member, I have seen children who have escaped child labour and have changed their lives. Children who have escaped child labour will begin to show a dazzling smile and talk about themselves with confidence."

 
 
 
 
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SHIHO SAKAGUCHI

General Affairs & Accounting 

"In some places in the world, just being a girl disqualifies you from an education". This was the phrase written on a UNICEF poster that spurred my unfading interest in international development. However, it was the pair of sparkling eyes belonging to the girl photographed in the poster that truly left an impression on me. A girl who had been given the opportunity to go to school. I thought, I want to help bring more joy like that into the world."

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AYAKA SUGIYAMA

Awareness Team

Ayaka spent her middle school years living in New Delhi, India, and was shocked at having seen children her age and younger work on a daily basis. During her time at university, she volunteered and participated in the student team at ACE. After graduating from Meiji Gakuin University, Faculty of International Studies, she worked as an instructor at a cram school and finally joined the team at ACE in 2015. She conducts awareness-raising and policy advocacy activities related to child labour, as well as running awareness-raising activities for the public through exhibitions, workshops and lectures. She has a wealth of experience in conducting workshops using ACE-created teaching materials, and serves as a facilitator for many organisations, consumer groups and educational institutions.

 

 
 
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AYANO AOI

Chief of Awareness

I had a vague idea that I wanted to work in international cooperation someday, but it was when I had my own children that really ignited my passion to protect children and their right to smile. 

Child labour is very much closely related to our daily life in Japan. That is why I believe that if we change our behaviour, we can change the problem. Now that I'm a mum, I'm wondering if there is some previously invisible strategies of international collaboration that can be uncovered from my new perspective.  Why don't you join me in uncovering the full potential of "International Cooperation Utilising Mum's Power"?

 
 
 
 
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YUTAKA KOBAYASHI

Managing Director

Yutaka currently runs his own marketing company whilst also in charge of PR and fundraising at ACE. Having visited India as part of his university course, Yutaka has been a part of ACE since its inception in 1997, and participated alongside Yuka and Tomoko in the Global March Against Child Labor in India in 1998.

"Whilst on the march, I kept asking myself the question, "How can we make more people aware of the complicated and invisible issue of child labour? Not just through local community activities where child labour is occurring, but also through small changes in our own daily lives in Japan. These questions underly my engagement with the issue. However, perhaps the starting point for my passion was the question posed by a university professor, "Is poverty the cause of child labour? Or is child labour the cause of poverty? I wanted to be able to answer this question with conviction and certainty. I am still searching for the answer."
 
 
 
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YUKI AKAHORI

SMILE Ghana Project Manager

"When I visited the northwestern part of Ghana as a student, I was surprised to see that most of the farmers were living a subsistence lifestyle. I felt that the farmers themselves would need to learn how to do business in order to solve their economic poverty, so I started work in the private sector to first learn about business. After working for the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV), a development consulting company, and an independent administrative agency, I joined ACE in January 2021 as the SMILE Ghana project manager. I will continue to work towards a better future for those in the cocoa sector by working together with the Ghanaian people and our supporters in Japan!"

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YUKIKO OIKAWA

Chief of Social Business 

"As a Japanese citizen, I was proud to have worked for a manufacturer for many years, selling Japanese products and being recognized for their high quality overseas. While production bases are moving overseas, where labour costs are low, we see that things that would not be able to occur in the countries where the head office of companies are slip through the weaker laws and regulations in place in the developing nations. This spurred an ethical dilemma for me. 

I wanted to conduct profitable activities that did not sacrifice or exploit people. As such, I left my previous job to study development economics. After completing my MBA and my PGDip in Development Study and Research, I became interested in human rights issues in the supply chain and decided to join the ACE team in 2018. In order to eliminate child labour caused by the economic and social exploitation of the most vulnerable in society, I aim to work together with companies to improve their social value and make money while building a better society."

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YUKO KAWAMURA

Researcher

"When I was a university student, I thought that child labour was only an issue in developing countries. However, after working for a chemical manufacturer for some years, I realized that this was not the case, that the globalized economy was placing a burden on everyone on the planet, both in terms of environmental and human rights, and that we in Japan are also complicit in the structure that perpetuates child labour. Since having this epiphany, I have strived to find ways to change the social structure and mindset of Japanese society, so that we collectively tackle these problems.

 

I joined ACE as a researcher in 2021 while doing my MSc. in Sustainable Development. I aim to contribute to building a better society where every child can enjoy their lives, where they have freedom and equal access to educational opportunities."

MIZUKI MORI

India Project Manager

"It was a massive shock for me to learn that 480,000 children are working in cottonseed production in India. 

Learning this caused me to ask, "Is the world today moving towards a more equitable future for children?” Our responsibility, I believe, is to establish a society where children are empowered to solve the challenges they face, and that they be given the choice to make decisions that allow them to live their lives with a sense of hope. 

I joined ACE in June 2021, not only to restore children’s opportunities by withdrawing them from child labour, but also to do what I can to support them to live each day in peace and safety, to have lives filled with smiles and hope. 

I am the mother of twin boys." 

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MEGUMU BABA

General Affairs

"It was almost 20 years ago when I first learned that children worked in the cocoa industry. I have always enjoyed chocolate, but I began to feel guilty, wondering if children were involved in its creation. I felt powerless, that there was nothing that I could do to help change the situation. One day, by chance, I came across the ACE website and was shocked to find that people in Japan have been working to solve the problems that I thought were out of reach! I realized that there was something I could do to be part of the solution, so I joined ACE in June 2021. 

Through ACE’s activities, I aim to educate people who, like me in the past, think that there is nothing they can do. I want to show them that they too can work to make the world a better place for children." 

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YUKI HIROSE

General Affairs

"When I was a university student, I met Thai children who had no access to education. I came to realize that life is very different depending on where people are born and raised. I became aware of NGOs and began working for them to improve this situation. I learned about international cooperation and realized that it is crucial for us to change how we live our lives, to change how society works, to make us more closely connected to the rest of the world. 

I aim to do what I can to support children in creating their own lives and following the path they wish to follow."  

Yuki joined ACE in July 2021. 

 
 
 
 
 
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VICKI WALKER

Pro Bono Senior Advisor

Vicki is a global senior advisor and consultant in international relations and development, foreign policy, labor rights and child labor prevention, gender equity and women's empowerment, monitoring and evaluation, vocational education, and capacity building in national and local monitoring systems. She is particularly passionate about the mobilization of youth in value chains, through technology for modern farming and community leadership in formal and informal sectors, as well as the prevention of child labour and hazardous work in supply chains through public-private partnerships.  

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