Few memorials speak of women, even less of their suffering, courage, endurance and determination to achieve justice. This memorial will speak of all that and more.

From 1931 through 1945 during World War II, hundreds of thousands of girls and women from 11 countries were sexually enslaved by the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces. The majority were from China, Korea, the Philippines, and Dutch Indonesia, with many from Burma, East Timor, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries. These girls and women, through coercion, deceit and brutal force, were subjected to exploitation and unspeakable pain and torture every day of their short lives. They were the “ Comfort Women” for the Imperial Japanese army, a euphemism for sex slaves.

More than 75 years later, their long struggle demanding justice for this unprecedented government-run system of wartime sexual enslavement is not over. Successive Japanese Administrations continue to deny the truth of this massive crime against humanity and to spend millions of dollars to hide or sanitize the issue. Unfortunately these horrors still take place at sites of national and international conflict today.

When the former “Comfort Women” broke their silence they changed the Human Rights landscape forever. In 1993 sexual violence as a strategy of war was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations. At the same time people began to understand the horrors of sex trafficking and its relationship to militarism and violence against women.

For decades the survivors have been fighting the Japanese government, demanding it to own up to its past and offer official apology, legal compensation and ongoing education to protect the next generation from the same egregious crimes that they endured. The last surviving victims, in their late 80s and 90s, are dying without seeing Justice.

In 2015, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution to build a Memorial to the “Comfort Women” in the City and to educate the community about stopping human trafficking of women and girls. This clear mandate by the City of San Francisco, which has supported peace and justice through its vibrant history, will serve as an international beacon of hope around the world.

Site Description

Site Context

  1. The memorial site is at the new extension of St. Mary’s Square. The preliminary location at St. Mary’s Extension is at the southwest corner. The final location at St. Mary’s Square is TBD.
  2. St. Mary’s Square is a public park managed by San Francisco Recreation and Parks.
  3. The provided footprint for the base of the memorial is 4’ deep x 9’ long aligned with the western edge boundary between the old and new parts of the park.
  4. The height of the Memorial is approximately 10’ tall including its base or podium.
  5. The weight of the Memorial shall not exceed 100 lbs. per square foot.
  6. The monument must be built of durable materials able to endure both weather and vandalism.


Jury Panel

The “Comfort Women” Justice Coalition (CWJC) has selected the following jury panel of five: Henry Der, Dr. Jennifer Fletcher, Jeffrey Heller, FAIA, Phyllis Kim, Kelli Morgan to assist the CWJC and the citizens of San Francisco in creating the most meaningful and appropriate memorial for the site. This panel’s diverse expertise in human rights issues in public art and design will reach Artists around the world and inspire the very best proposals. The winning proposal will honor the memory of the “Comfort Women”, their bravery and courage, the on-going fight for justice and for the global safety and human rights of women and girls. The winning entry shall be chosen and publicly announced before the end of 2016.

Click here for Jury Bios

Project Timeline (dates subject to change)

RFP Issue July 21, 2016
RFP Deadline October 14, 2016 (revised)
Public Exhibit October 15, 2016, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., (revised)
Chinatown Branch Library Community Meeting Room
1135 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Selection of Top Three Artists October 16, 2016 (Result to be posted)
Finalist Proposal Due November 18, 2016
Public Exhibit November 28, 2016
Final Selection December 5, 2016
SF Arts Commission Submission December 9, 2016
Project Construction TBA 2017

Selection Procedure

All application materials that meet the requirements will be reviewed and selected by the Comfort Women Justice Coalition Public Art Panel. Three finalists will be notified by CWJC staff once selection has been made. Each finalist will be given a $1,000 stipend to prepare and submit a full project proposal in October, 2016 (date (TBD) with specified requirements.


This is an international competition open to all entries that meet the objectives outlined in the overview above. Professionals, practicing artists and collectives who have public art experience are strongly preferred.

To 36 artist proposals from around the world, click here.

Project Budget

A $140,000 budget shall be used for the design, materials, and installation of the public art, as well as the artist’s compensation.

See Artist Proposals

See 36 design proposals submitted by artists from around the world.

Click here

Jury Panel

Henry Der worked as executive director of San Francisco Chinatown-based Chinese for Affirmative Action for more than two decades. He has served as Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction for the California Department of Education… (read more)

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, is the SF MOMA’s Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design. She oversees the department’s acquisitions, exhibitions and publications… (read more)

Jeffrey Heller, FAIA is president and founder of Heller Manus Architects. Since its beginning in 1984, the firm has established a reputation for influencing architecture and urban design in the Bay Area, nationally and internationally…  (read more)

Phyllis Kim is Executive Director of the Korean American Forum of California. The group is dedicated to raising awareness regarding the unresolved history of the ‘Comfort Women’ … (read more)

Kelli Morgan is a curator, writer, critical race art historian whose work focuses on African American women’s art, within the context of issues of justice, race, representation. She is a strong advocate for modern and contemporary art with an experienced urban eye for cutting edge work…. (read more)

Social Media
facebook group: RememberComfortWomen
hashtag: #RememberComfortWomen


PO box 27635, San Francisco, CA 94127
Email: comfortwomencoalition@gmail.com
Copyright 2016, CWJC, all rights reserved