This article is a transcription of the presentation by Mr. Abdin Mohammed at the IAfP Joint Meeting for Human Resource Development for Africa (January 17, 2022).
Mohamed Abdin (CSR Group Planning Development Division, Global Inclusion Strategy Planning, Santen Pharmaceutical Co.)
Today, I would like to discuss the story of how I have pursued my career. Any students from Africa could be in a similar situation if they could fulfill the three conditions I will discuss.
The first is a “shared worldview,” or being blessed with an environment that allows you to deeply understand the Japanese society. To acquire such understanding requires you to learn Japanese at an advanced level. A number of international students finish their studies in Japan without learning Japanese, and I have seen many such students lose their relationship with Japan after returning to their home countries. In my case, I happened to be visually impaired, which made it necessary for me to learn Japanese, and I was in an environment where I was able to learn Japanese well. As a result of being able to understand the subtle differences in messages hidden in the ambiguous expressions of the Japanese language, I was able to eliminate major friction and acquire a deeper understanding of Japan and the challenges it faces. Of course, there is a need to improve the English educational environment, but it is also important to provide international students with an environment where they can learn Japanese well and improve their quality of life in Japan.
The second is a “shared awareness of issues,” which is the ability to act by sharing one’s personal worldview and issues with one’s peers. During my studies in Japan, I was lucky to have a good learning environment. We had access to a voice input software installed that read books out aloud, and we also had a temporary staff member to type text into that software. This made me realize that visually impaired people could be active in knowledge-based work if they could receive quality education and had an environment where they could access knowledge. I wanted to improve the situation in Sudan, so I started support activities in 2006 with my university and visually impaired friends to create an information education environment for visually impaired university students in Sudan to learn about computers and acquire other skills. Graduates who studied in this environment are now working in diverse occupations such as teachers, lawyers, translators, and programmers. These activities expanded, and in 2008, we became a non-profit organization. An environment that allows each person to be able to do what they want to do should let visually impaired people advance in a variety of areas. It was young Japanese people who supported this activity. I received a grant from the Nippon Foundation and went to Sudan with Japanese university students. We experienced an exchange not as people giving and receiving support, but as young people in the same situation. The Japanese university students who went to Sudan are now working for JICA or international NGOs, or involved in community development projects with a focus on local issues.
The third condition is understanding “how you can connect your deepened understanding of the Japanese society and experience of sharing issues with your colleagues which you wish to tackle to your career.” I believe that sharing my worldview and issues like this allowed me to gain a variety of experiences and create good synergy for myself, the people of Africa, and the Japanese youth with whom I worked. I was a university teacher for six years since I graduated from college, and since 2020, I have been working for Santen Pharmaceutical, which is a company that specializes in eye drops. Santen, as a social innovator as well as a pharmaceutical and R&D company, is aware of the challenges of reducing social losses caused by physical ailments. I joined the company because this awareness of the challenge matched my experience to date.
Studying the Japanese language in depth, discussing various topics with my colleagues, and sharing my awareness of the issues led me to take action. This series of actions and my current experience as a member of a private company are connected. I believe that the gateway to this lies in the fact I was able to learn Japanese. I believe that it could be of some value for African students under various circumstances, and that there is much that can be done to share this with Japanese students. Therefore, I am of the view that it is important to create an environment where international students do not immediately disconnect from Japan but rather can make full use of the connection so that they can contribute to solutions of social issues and thereby to pursue their own fruitful careers.
(Born in Khartoum, capital of Sudan, in 1978. He was born with low vision and lost his sight at the age of 12. He came to Japan at the age of 19 and studied acupuncture and moxibustion at Fukui Prefectural School for the Blind before going on to the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. He went into African Area Studies to examine the North-South conflict in Sudan. He went on to graduate school at the same university and received his PhD in 2014. After serving as a specially-appointed assistant professor at the World Language and Society Education, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and as a special visiting professor at the Faculty of Law, Gakushuin University, he is currently working for Santen Pharmaceutical Co. He is also an essayist, the president of the NPO Committee for Assisting and Protecting Education for Disabled in Sudan (CAPEDS), and a player of blind soccer. Book: “My Blind Thoughts” (Poplar Publishing Co., Ltd.))
(Jinbundo, from https://book.asahi.com/jinbun/article/14343205: in Japanese)