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.
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