I had the privilege today of having a seat at the table of the most important conversation in the world. I shared this conversation with about 6,000 other people from every corner of the globe, who are gathered today in Copenhagen for Women Deliver. Launched tonight, the conference is the largest gathering about women’s and girls’ in the world.
But it is not about women and girls. As Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary said in her welcoming remarks, “This is not a women’s agenda. This is an agenda for humanity.” She is exactly right. This conference is about all humanity. Until we reach every one – every individual, including the most marginalized, vulnerable and neglected girls, adolescents and women – we cannot reach everyone. Women and girls are not a fringe group, or an afterthought, or a niche topic that only concerns other females. No. They are essential and intrinsic and enriching to humanity, and are everyone’s concern.
Katja Iversen, the CEO of Women Deliver, said it right when she addressed delegates and called for business as unusual. The esteemed panelists that joined her for the opening ceremonies articulated what changes need to happen, to shift the conversation and create change that results in this business as unusual. They spoke articulately, with stories that were sometimes moving, sometimes humorous, and always driving at equality for women and girls. Tawakkol Karman from Yemen spoke with conviction about the battle for justice and peace. The face of fearless journalism Barkha Dutt reminded us that without equality at home, there will never be equality at work. Musician and activist Annie Lennox championed the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Babatunde Osotimehin, whose strong mother told him he was no different from his sisters, encouraged men to cry and be in touch with their full humanity, and stand in solidarity with girls and women.
Conversation spanned from political representation, to fighting disease, to sexual and reproductive health and rights, to education, to early and forced marriage. Yemurai Nyoni, a male activist from Zimbabwe, was a testament to the voice of youth who are changing the conversation and challenging the status quo to create change. The importance of full rights was stressed by Gro Harlem Brundtland, as essential to reaching the SDGs. With her trademark candor, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization, emphasized that we need to work together – with men, with girls, with women. With everyone.
This point struck me as critical, as I looked around and saw an exceptionally diverse group that surrounded me at the Bella Center. I imagined the knowledge, the skills, the stories and the potential of every person there. Every single individual has their own specialist role to play. I then imagined the sum of all of the expertise, when you add the potential of those 6,000 people together. Working together, this represents a powerful force for change.
Canadians are a critical part of that force that is working together. We have a uniquely collaborative approach to international women’s and childen’s health, and we have an impressive sum of talents and expertise. That is on display here at Women Deliver, where there is a dynamic Canadian presence. Civil society, academic and health practitioner experts from across our country are here in Copenhagen, a vital part of the conversation. Best in class Canadians are involved in plenaries, concurrent sessions, films, appy hour, booths and side events. You can access a full calendar of all of the Canadian activities here.
Visit our booth C2-070 in the Exhibition Hall to add a message to our massive Canadian flag, and engage in conversation with other Canadians about policy, programming and your Women Deliver experience. I also encourage you to follow #CanadaCares and #WD2016 on Twitter, as we will be a hub of information and Canadian content throughout the week. Whether you are here in Denmark with us and want to plan your day to maximize inspiration and learning, or whether you are at home in Canada and watching the conference on WDLive.org, I urge us all to support our Canadian colleagues and bring our own unique conversation to the world stage.
As Jill Sheffield said in her closing, it is time to deliver. I am immensely impressed with the contributions of our Partners to this ongoing work, and proud to be a part of the Canadian presence in Copenhagen. There is power in partnership, and it is by working together that we can reach every one.
May 16, 2016
Dr. Helen Scott, Executive Director, CanWaCH
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