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West Japan high school students win SDGs contest with anti-bullying pink mask movement

Students from Shiga Prefectural Torahime High School are seen wearing pink masks which are part of an anti-bullying and anti-discrimination campaign, at the Shiga Prefectural Government building on April 4, 2022. (Mainichi/Manabu Niwata)

OTSU -- Students who organized a "pink mask" campaign inspired by a worldwide anti-bullying movement were awarded the grand prize in a west Japan regional contest where high schoolers proposed ideas to achieve the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    A total of 268 teams from 56 schools in west Japan's Kinki region took part in the SDGs Quest Mirai Koushien's Kansai area contest. Among them, the "Tora High pink mask day executive committee," consisting of students at Shiga Prefectural Torahime High School in the city of Nagahama, won the top prize.

    The students drew inspiration from "Pink Shirt Day," a movement which began in February 2007 after students in Canada came together and wore pink shirts to show they were against bullying. The movement has spread across the world, with groups of people celebrating diversity and standing up against bullying and discrimination by wearing pink on Pink Shirt Day, which falls on the last Wednesday of February each year.

    After being moved by these efforts, the students at Torahime High founded the executive committee in October 2021 to put a twist on the original movement and encourage the widespread use of "pink masks." The students collected funds for creating the masks and other expenses through crowdfunding. On Feb. 23 this year, they held a "Pink Mask Day" event at the Kurokabe square in the city of Nagahama to coincide with Pink Shirt Day.

    The executive committee members visited Shiga Gov. Taizo Mikazuki on April 4 to give him the pink masks and report their first-prize accomplishment.

    Executive committee head Kohaku Sawada, 17, who is a third-year student at Torahime High School, commented, "Right now, coronavirus-related discrimination is also happening. We'd like to enhance our activities and spread them across the world so that winning the prize is not the goal but a new start."

    (Japanese original by Manabu Niwata, Otsu Bureau)

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