From May 16 to 19 this year, advocates from around the world came together in Copenhagen for the Women Deliver conference. We’re spotlighting their work and experiences here on the Ms. blog.
My mind is blown.
Having spent the four days at the Women Deliver conference—at the incredible Bella Centre in Copenhagen,—my brain is racing, my heart is ready to burst and I am even more committed now to fighting for women rights, women’s equality and women’s voices.
As a first-time attendee at Women Deliver, I was somewhat surprised—maybe naively so—at the sheer variety of topics and agendas covered. From women’s political power to safe birthing practices, from making contraception more appealing to women’s experiences of climate change—each cause is equally as important and interlinked to the next, creating a giant spider’s web of tasks for the development community to navigate and untangle.
This may sound quite daunting, but that is not at all the impression I wish to give. There was a buzzing air of positivity at Women Deliver, and such a diverse mix of people spreading ideas and creating partnerships to make collaborative action possible. It was refreshing to see so many men, especially young men, participating—the youngest delegate I came across was a six month old baby boy! To hear these men declaring themselves feminists, discussing menstruation on stage and crying out that their male counterparts across the globe had a lot to answer for was extremely heartening. Women do not—and should not—have to fight this battle alone.
In fact, one of my favorite speakers at Women Deliver was a young man from Zimbabwe—Yemurai Nyoni, Founder and Advisor of Dot Youth Organisation. He is a 26 year-old who is passionate about ending child marriage and challenging misogyny. Yemurai spoke with such ease and confidence at the Opening Ceremony; sitting in a panel amongst giants like Gro Harlem Brundtland, Margaret Chan and Annie Lennox, he completely held the floor, shouting that “the future we are working towards has no space for the violent man” and stressing how men need not be frightened of strong women.
Needless to say, I cannot let this piece just focus on men’s presence at Women Deliver. There was one speaker who grabbed my heart, inspired me, and left my hands sore from clapping when I heard her speak. That was Tawakkol Karman, who had been told she belonged in the kitchen when fighting for democracy and justice for women. A Yemeni woman and co-founder and President of Women Journalists Without Chains, she is beautiful, passionate, powerful—and loud! Clearly not allowing the language barrier to hold her back, Tawakkol made the whole room shake when shouting about the need for democracy, justice and peace for her country—the victories that are needed for women’s freedom.
As “Mother of the Revolution,” Tawakkol lightly brushed aside the fact she had been threatened and imprisoned for organizing peaceful protests for Yemeni women, as if it was just part of a normal day’s work. You could feel through her words that this was a woman who would never give in and never stop fighting until all women in her country were free from tyranny, oppression and discrimination.
Coming away from Women Deliver 2016, I feel energized and ready to apply all I have learned to my work and my personal life. There are still huge strides to be made for women’s equality globally, and I hope I can play my part amongst these amazing women and men.
Photo courtesy of Progressio.
Natalie Smith is the Programme Funding Officer at Progressio. Studying for an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Global Development, Natalie spent time in South America where she became passionate about the human rights of disadvantaged women. After graduation, Natalie worked as a Support Worker for reintegrating women offenders before studying for her Masters in Applied Human Rights at the University of York.