Student Spotlight: Kanoko Kamata

Kanoko Kamata, portrayed as a 3rd year Ph.D. student in 2021

A community organizer experienced in affecting change, Kanoko Kamata is dedicated to inspiring others to take action. As a student in the Dietrich School’s Sociology Ph.D. program, she studies anti-sexual violence protests in Japan, with a particular focus on identifying the practices that facilitate participation in the movement.

This research is informed by Kamata’s first-hand experiences as an organizer and activist on gender issues, particularly gender-based violence. In 2017, her collaboration with activist, nonprofit, and government stakeholders resulted in the reform of Japan’s sex crime law for the first time in 110 years.

Kamata holds a BA from Nihon University, Japan. After completing an MPA at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government (2012), where she had studied campaign organizing, Kamata co-founded and served as executive director for Community Organizing Japan. The organization trained community members on community organizing frameworks and contributed to the design and implementation of a campaign that harnessed public support and lobbied lawmakers.

At Pitt, Kamata has expanded her network through a research assistantship with the Gender Inequality Research Lab (GIRL), conducting research to measure gender equality in public administration leadership in the Asia Pacific region, especially Japan. In 2020, Kamata won a prestigious, multi-year scholarship from the Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program (JJ/WBGSP). The award recognizes scholars dedicated to the alleviation of poverty and enhanced shared prosperity in developing countries.

Extending her momentum to further inspire action and share effective community organizing principles, Kamata published a book based on her experiences: Community Organizing: 5 Steps to Create the Future You Want (Eiji Press, 2020). She also co-founded Chabujo, a Tokyo-based, grassroots feminist organization that coordinates workshops on consent and bystander intervention, as well as campaigns to further amend criminal law.

Kamata aspires to teach community organizing to college students in Japan, her home country, in order to encourage young people to affect social change, and to continue to pursue research on social movements in a comparative perspective.