Back Home: Students Reflect on the Trip’s Impact

“Simply put, I have been more intellectually stimulated in the past four days than I have in four years of high school…  During the course of this conference I have learned about the sexual rights of people with disabilities, that in 32 European countries in order to change your gender you have to sterilized and that 800 women die everyday because of preventable maternal death.  These are things we should be incorporate into our education, into our lives and into our work.”

“I could have an intense and earnest conversation about accountability with a senior director at the World Bank, and then he would immediately begin to give me advice about being a teenager.”  

“This conference began a dialogue within our group of students.   In school we are often focused on more local issues, but this was something entirely different.  Topics included human trafficking, how micro credit helps or hurts women, and of course, how unimaginably lucky we were to be here.  This conference has changed the way I think and converse about the world, and that is where change begins.”

This experience was truly incredible and life-changing. I have been able to meet so many influential and amazing trailblazers who have changed and are changing our world, and have become so inspired and influenced by each one of them.” 

“I met people from countries I had no idea about, and I gained an extremely expanded perspective of the world and those from other countries. I was able to become really good friends with some people that I never would have met otherwise, such as young leaders from Gambia, Serbia, and Nigeria.”

“I have become more aware of the impact that any person, idea, organization, or innovation can make in the world.”

“Prior to going on the trip I felt as if I would never learn enough to be a productive member of the conference. What I didn’t realize was the focus and emphasis on the importance of taking my experience as a youth and educating others on that experience. It showed me that youth opinions are important because those decisions we help influence are the ones that we will live to experience.”

“This trip has inspired me to try and combine my interest in science and women’s health into a future career. Overall, this conference has made me more proud to be a woman and has inspired me to want to help make a significant change in our community at home.”

“I learned what a big responsibility youth have, and it’s never too early to start investing in an important cause.  My eyes have been opened to see how much there is left to do, to lessen the gaps between men and women. This conference showed me how passionate I am for these issues and this conference is just the beginning of my journey with women’s rights and global health.”

One of the parts of Women Deliver which I will never forget is when I was able to talk to a midwife from Uganda… Three months ago, or maybe even a week ago, I never would have been able to approach this lady, most likely for fear of looking ridiculous or uneducated. This conference has taught me to go after what I want, to push myself to learn about anything that I am curious about. The less I know about it, the better, because I will learn and gain the most from it.”

Wednesday Reflections

Liam:  Hi–my name is Liam Downey and I am a sophomore at Brookline High School. Today was the third day of the conference and some of the most inspiring and interesting plenaries and concurrent sessions were today. One specific experience for me was sitting next to a man named Joel Spicer. He is the CEO of a micronutrient company that serves over 500 million people. When talking to him, he gave us some inspiring and fascinating advice. One of the things that he told us was to go against the normal flow of what everyone says. He compared it to talking in class, where many kids just repeat what the teacher says and people are shy to say something that goes against the flow and ideas of the conversation. Along with this, he emphasized the important role that young people in the global health world play. He told us how we were the future and although many of the older people may say we aren’t, we hold many of the keys to success. For me, to hear this from a true global health leader was amazing. He spoke so eloquently and was so inspiring it pushed me personally to a new level. As a person in the private sector, he is a very important role model for the global health world, and all the things he said were truly inspiring and fascinating.

Tuesday: Conference Reflections

Sophia: After a little coffee break as well as some networking within the huge Exhibit Hall where a bunch of organizations set up booths, I headed over to a random concurrent session solely on chance entitled Educating Children with Disabilities. And the chance and randomness ended there, because it was exactly where I needed to be. The moderator was a legally blind Irish woman named Caroline Casey who was perhaps one of the most inspiring and passionate speakers I had ever encountered. Like truly. Her entire opening speech was improvised and came entirely from the heart, speaking about stigma and oppression and isolation about disabilities. It hit me so hard and I had never been as aware and completely and utterly engaged as I had been while the panelists spoke. The panel consisted of the data-keeping Australian prime minister, a UNICEF Gender and Development manager, a man from Plan International, and a girl from Pakistan named Amia with cerebral palsy who is the head founder and head of an international women with disabilities NGO. It was one of the most engaging and intersectional conversations that converged the paths of both feminism and disability awareness I had ever witnessed/been a part of. I am really proud of myself for standing up when they were handing out the microphone and telling my own story about my mom (whilst shaking) and asking about the connection to mental illness/the stigma that follows when physically disabled people acquire mental illness from isolation. It was kind of addressed, kind of not, but the moderator came up to me afterwards and told me that with that kind of grit and tenacity, I would make it wherever I wanted to go. So I’d say, it wasn’t a bad day.

Sascha: This has been such an incredible opportunity, and I am beyond grateful I am able to attend Women Deliver 2016. Never before have I spoken to so many people from so many different countries. The panelists have shown us countless statistics, some were that 1/3 of women have suffered abuse and that 15 million girls year wide are married under the age of 18, but I really think that the conversations with people from cultures so different than my own has been what has truly opened my eyes to the different lives that cover the globe. In a panel today I heard, “When you see it, you know it.” This feels so accurate to me because now that I have been exposed to global health and the rights girls and women deserve globally, I don’t think I will ever be able to no longer strive to improve the world, and I am so grateful for that.

Kyle: Today, just like yesterday- was an extremely special and inspiring day. My name is Kyle “K.J.” McAuley and I’m a sophomore at Brookline High School. Two of my biggest passions are sport, and equality. They have been lifelong passions, two ideas that I have been involved in since I was little. Today, I got the incredible chance to experience both in one setting. The weaving of sport and equality is an fascinating idea. There are a plethora of organizations around the world that work to empower young women by using the powerful qualities of games like football (soccer). At the first official full day of the all-ages conference, I was able to attend- “Girl Power in Play: Leveling the Playing Field for Girls and Women.” This event consisted of a panel of extremely qualified and hard working people in the sports equality world. I was so interested in hearing Mónica González speak. She is a former captain of the Mexico Women’s National Football team, and a current commentator for ESPN. She spoke about the amazing impact that football can have on young women, and the amazing impact that young women can have on football. The comments made by all speakers on the panel were extremely well thought out and inspiring. Before this conference, it had not really occurred to me that there are many ways for me to tie my love for sport into my love for equality. I learned today that there are many people who everyday, live the dream I have. After the panel, Mónica was nice enough to talk with many people in the audience and was so kind to take a picture with me. It was a greatly motivating experience for me, and something I will never forget. This was a great panel, at a great conference.

Brianna: Coming into this conference I had no idea what to expect. All of the interactions, even the simple ones has had an impact on me. For example I met some women from Gambia during one of the coffee break moments. She and her friends were selling beautiful skirts that they had made. As soon as I walked over she welcomed me with open arms and told me what organization she was with and the reproductive health rights she was fighting for. Meanwhile she had an adorable baby in her hands, that I eventually got to hold. Just sitting with these women and interacting with them (and the baby) was an enjoyable experience and it wasn’t complicated, just simple and sweet!

Ethan: Hi, I’m Ethan Jampel and I’m a sophomore. Like the first day, I attended some great sessions and had a fantastic time. One specific session I attended was a lunch session on women and climate change. It was really interesting for me because a woman from Fiji was speaking, and even though I knew about how islands were going underwater I never really understood what that really meant to people. At the end of the session, a really powerful poem was read by someone from an island going underwater. The mayor of Copenhagen also discussed how his city is moving towards a more sustainable future with net zero carbon emissions. Another topic discussed was how women are very affected by climate change because in a lot of places, women are major food producers and so their crop is threatened by climate change. Overall, I learned a lot about climate change and how it intersects with women’s health and rights issues.

Anna: This trip has truly been an honor and a privilege. Everyone I have met has been so surprised that I am only in high school, and I still can’t believe that I’ve had the chance to come here to Copenhagen. I’ve gotten the chance to see royalty speak (which was so cool!) and I’ve gotten to meet amazing people who not only see the SDG’s as a necessity, but have made it their life’s work.

The moment that really struck me was the night of the opening session, when the prime minster said that he cared about humans rights because he was a human being. That really hit home for me. Throughout the rest of the days, as I’ve been to panels on abortion, the criminalization of human rights essentially, and then female perspectives of the SDG’s, I’ve realized that we all have to start to care. The fact is that the world is messed up. In the Philippines, abortion for any reason is illegal, even if it could save the mother’s life. In conflict zones, many women are brutalized and are afraid to seek help because of the repercussions. This conference has made me realize that I can’t just let this happen anymore. We can’t sit by and do nothing. Without gender equality, nothing will change.
Wherever you are, you have the power to make a difference. And it is our responsibility to do so.

Monday: Youth Pre-Conference

By Camille

What an incredible day.  Today was the youth pre-conference where young leaders gathered from around the globe to discuss meaningful youth engagement on issues surrounding girls and women.  There were several amazing panels and speakers, but what spoke to me most was having personal interactions with people from around the globe.  During the breakout workshop we sat in tables with young people who are also attending the conference.  Just at my table were three women from Sudan, one woman from Kyrgyzstan, one woman from Mongolia and a man from Uganda.  The topics that each of these leaders focused on was unique to their country and background.  The man from Uganda organizes flash mobs to raise awareness about contraception and another woman was a medical student in Sudan.  She was talking about the pressure from her parents to become a practicing doctor, but she would rather go into public health policy.  This is something that almost all teenagers go through.  Even though we are from opposites sides of the globe, we connected in a very personal way, and this was incredible to be a part of.  The work these young leaders are doing in their countries makes a real and tangible impact, and being witness to that change was an amazing experience.

By Anonymous

The first panel began around 10 and consisted of six wonderful individuals. Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, was one of the speakers at this panel, and she really stood out. A lot of people enjoyed listening to her responses to the questions. I did, for I thought she was the realest one up there. Her ideas were a little unrealistic, but they were rich of quality and pertained to the issue at hand. She kept saying “hashtag hand it over,” which was a brilliant slogan for what she believed about giving power to the younger generation. She said,  “Youth need to be brought to the table. The old world needs to stop telling the new world what to do.” That quote enhanced her response and kept me engaged. Her central focus was to bring together youth and human rights.

Sunday: Dinner

By Elena

For dinner, we went across the canal in Copenhagen to eat at a street food center called “Papirøen”. Inside was a plethora of gourmet stalls with tons of different yummy food choices. People from our group got to choose from vegetarian Colombian creations, pulled duck sandwiches, Moroccan flatbreads, homemade pasta, French croquettes, Danish sausage sandwiches, Korean barbeque, organic juices, and chocolate cheesecake. The style of seating was communal, so many of us got to sit together and also with many of the locals who came for dinner as well. The food was delicious, and a great end to our sight-seeing day in Copenhagen.

Sunday: Copenhagen River Cruise

By Serra

Today we went on a river cruise through the canal of Denmark. When boarding the boat we had a wonderful view of blue, yellow, and red row houses, a view Copenhagen is famous for. Modern buildings such as the opera house, an addition to the library, and houses dotted the shore with their large glass windows and creative shapes. The Royal family’s castle was seen from the boat and the Denmark flag was hanging on the flag post, evidence that the royal family was staying there. Though the old castle was destroyed in a fire, we were able to view the quarters that were preserved where horses were kept. The royal family boat that they use for vacations was also in the water. The river tour provided a unique perspective on the city. We were able to see the old charming Copenhagen as well as the sleek the new Copenhagen side by side, giving us a holistic view of the city’s architecture.