About the Women Deliver Conference

About the Women Deliver Conference

Conference Website: WD2016.org

Women Deliver’s conferences are the world’s largest global convenings to focus on the health, rights and well-being of girls and women. Building on the successes of Women Deliver’s three previous global gatherings—in London in 2007, in Washington in 2010 and in Kuala Lumpur in 2013—the 2016 Conference will bring together world leaders, advocates, policymakers, journalists, young people, researchers and leaders of the private sector and civil society to showcase what it means and how it works when women and girls become the focus of development efforts.

The conference, which will be held in Copenhagen from 16–19 May 2016, will be the largest gathering on girls’ and women’s health, rights, and wellbeing for more than a decade, and one of the first major global conferences following the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The focus of the conference will be on how to implement SDGs as they relate to girls and women, with a specific focus on health – in particular maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights – and the inter-connections with gender equality, education, environment, and economic empowerment.

This year’s conference will have a special focus on youth leadership with youth leaders from around the world playing a prominent role. The BHS delegation is the only group of high school students to attend the conference.

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Greetings from Copenhagen

After a long night and day of travel, we have arrived in Copenhagen. We left Boston last night (Friday) at 9:30 PM and arrived at 10 AM in Oslo, Norway. While we had hoped to spend our long layover sightseeing in Oslo, a slow line through Immigration and Customs undermined our plans. Instead we spent several hours in the Oslo airport, preparing for the upcoming conference and resting. We also tried some Norwegian delicacies, like salty licorice (an acquired taste). Happily, our flight to Denmark was brief. When we arrived in Copenhagen, we learned that the blue line down the middle of the airport floor means the “fast lane,” (thanks to the grumpy man who pointed this out to our jet-lagged stragglers). We then took the subway to our hotel, checked into our interesting, space-efficient rooms (for example, the bathroom is the shower), and walked to a local food court for dinner. We’re ready to conquer jet lag with a good night’s sleep before a morning meeting with Jill Sheffield, the founder of Women Deliver.

 

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Perusing the Women Deliver Conference Catalog and Resting in the Oslo Airport
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We Arrived!

Sunday: Meeting with Jill Sheffield

By Noa

Jill Sheffield met with us this morning and broke down what power means into one word: choice. Ms. Sheffield is the president and founder of the Women Deliver Conference. To her, the concept of choice, and having that option to put our lives in our own hands, is an emotional one. After giving us a fast-forwarded version of her life up to the age of 27 (she grew up in Florida, went to high school, college and grad school, taught for a year, moved to Africa with her husband, and interned in a clinic in Kenya), she described an experience that happened on the day of her 27th birthday. Breaking both clinic protocol and community tradition, Ms. Sheffield began providing health services for women who had not received the consent of their husbands several weeks earlier. On that particular morning, a woman walked in, laden with a child on her back and one in her arms. This woman was 27 years old, like Jill. But in those 27 years she had not gone to college to receive a Bachelor’s and Master’s. She had gone through 11 pregnancies and had given birth to 6 children. She had woken up that morning, carrying two children to a tiny clinic which she wasn’t even sure existed. She was building choices, and through these choices, building power. It was this experience that inspired Jill Sheffield to begin her transition from teaching to leading the fight for reproductive rights and family planning choices.

In 2007, Ms. Sheffield founded the Women Deliver Conference with the goal of bringing the conversation about female empowerment to the international stage. Since the emergence of the conference, although Women Deliver takes no official credit, the maternal mortality rate has dropped 47%. As she finished, she reminded us how the numbers are still too high to remain content. There remains a huge initiative to be taken. Every day we have the power to make choices in our lives, our health, our education, our relationships, our happiness, and our futures. We are reminded that equity comes not simply from the material but from the power to make choices in our daily experiences.

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.

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.

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.

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.