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Kozue Sawame - President - Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative at Fish Family Foundation

How long have you been working in Boston?

I have lived and worked in Boston since 2007. Prior to that, I lived in DC for three years

attending Georgetown University for a master’s degree and moved to Boston for a job

offer as a fundraiser at the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence, a Boston-

based nonprofit. Everything was new to me - the job and the city - and the start was

rough. I must have been under so much stress as a few weeks after the move, I got so

sick that I almost passed out on the street! The Japan Society of Boston helped me as a

new Bostonian to meet people, stay connected with Japan and be a part of the Boston

community. Fast forward 17 years to 2024, Boston has become my home.

[Speaking at Japan Innovation Night along with JWLI Fellows at

Cambridge Innovation Center]

What does your organization do?

I am the President of JWLI (Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative) at the Fish Family

Foundation, co-founded by Boston’s visionary leader, Atsuko Toko Fish. This is my 12th

year at the foundation and I thoroughly enjoy my work and find it very rewarding. I have

focused my studies and work on women’s empowerment and leadership for over 20

years and that is what I get to do. Offering four leadership programs for women

nonprofit executives and social entrepreneurs since 2003, JWLI drives social change in

Japan through women leaders as agents of change. In recent years, my work has taken

me to unimaginable places like Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, and Taiwan where I presented our


[Participating in Babson College’s women’s executive leadership course]

What are the benefits and challenges of working in America?

As a woman of color working in Boston, I feel respected, liberated, and valued for my

multi-cultural and lingual background. There is no perfect place and Boston of course

has its own issues, but I am safe, comfortable, and encouraged to share my opinions

and ideas, which I understand is a privilege. Therefore, I am committed to JWLI and our

philosophy of being open, positive and inclusive.

What is your favorite thing about Boston?

I was born and raised in Hokkaido, the newest prefecture of Japan, and have always

been fascinated by history. Boston is full of that. I like walking around the town, passing

places like the Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in the country. Also, I live in

Beverly on the north shore, next to Salem, both of which are places also full of history

like the Salem Witch Trials and is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace, the author of one of

my favorite books, The Scarlet Letter.

[A site-visit at Fresh Truck, a Boston-based nonprofit, as part of the JWLI program]

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