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Women Deliver 2016

How does one open the largest global conference on the rights, health and well-being of girls and women – Women Deliver 2016?  

A conference of such significance for people, planet and prosperity.  A conference that’s focus is on perhaps the world’s– no, THE world’s greatest untapped resource, girls and women. A conference with the mission to ‘change-the-game’ for girls and women - which in reality means to the benefit of us all – for good.

Not an easy task but, a task that I’m proud to call mine.

Welcome to the 4th Women Deliver 2016, Conference.  Welcome to Copenhagen, Denmark.
I – and I believe I also speak on behalf of Denmark – WE are truly honored to host such an ambitious and action-driven conference. 

The possibilities that such a gathering of over 5,000; experts, activists, politicians, business leaders, youth and members of civil society, from 160 countries, presents are endless but, if harnessed effectively present great opportunities for sustainable development.

Women Deliver is all about collecting knowledge and experience from all over the world and creating an open culture of knowledge sharing and challenging us to collaborate on our common goals across all sectors, societies, countries and regions – based on the recognition that only TOGETHER can we achieve meaningful change, for good.

Everyone in this room has their own unique story and journey which has brought us here together in Copenhagen.  For me, the start of my journey - now 7 years ago - were the words: “When a woman gets pregnant in my country, she has one foot in the grave”. Words said by; Dr Grace Kondigo, an obstetrician from Chad.

At that time, I had no idea and was shocked to learn that every minute a women dies during pregnancy or giving birth.  And it saddens me that still today, every year, over 300.000 women die from pregnancy related causes globally and over five million babies die during birth or within the first weeks of their lives. And it angers me that 90% of the existing maternal and newborn deaths can be prevented, with access to skilled birth attendance.

Maternal mortality is just one of the horribly unjust symptoms of inequality and lack of respect of the human rights of girls and women.

And whether your journey is about:

  • Ending child marriage for the 15 million girls who are married before the age of 18
  • Ending violence against women for the 1 in 3 women globally who have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner (WHO)
  • Ending FGM for the 3 million girls that are at risk each year
  • Ending the lack of access to comprehensive sexuality education and youth friendly services; OR
  • Ending social norms and structural barriers that prevent girls and women equal access to education, healthcare, political representation and economic participation.

We all share a common conviction – that girls and women are the key to building healthy, prosperous and sustainable societies and communities.  And the evidence is sound – when we invest in girls and women society as a whole benefits. 

Today more than ever, this conviction is recognized explicitly in the new Sustainable Development Agenda - and our ability to achieve truly transformative change and results across all 17 goals is dependent on the realization of gender equality and significant progress achieved for girls and women.
And we are at a pivotal moment, the vision for the future is established and as we embark on the implementation of the new Global Goals we must set the strategy for getting there.

I would like to commend Jill Sheffield and Katja Iversen and the team at Women Deliver for their vision, commitment and wisdom but, also for their unwavering focus on ACTION.

Because only through ACTION do words take meaning. Our task is to take the words of the new agenda - that holds great promise for girls and women - and give them meaning, meaning in the lives of girls and women all around the world.

First of all we need gatherings, like; Women Deliver 2016 and it will require;

  • Strong and authentic leadership – from governments and civil society
  • Innovative and new solutions at all levels of society
  • The involvement and leadership of Youth
  • New and untraditional partnerships across and within, all sectors and boarders.
  • The involvement and investment of the private sector like never before
  • Holistic and respectful community-led development programs
  • An understanding of what is working, there is no need to re-invent the wheel, we should look to modify, add value and scale evidence-based solutions that we know work; and
  • That this Agenda is not a women’s agenda but, an agenda for humanity that must involve girls, men, women and boys.

It will take continuous and long-term strategies and interventions and as we see progress and experience success, we must not lean-back, as it is here, we are our most vulnerable.

I have been so much looking forward to the start of Women Deliver 2016 and that day is finally here. 
LET’S build on and accelerate the progress that has already been achieved. LET’S look to new horizons.  Together let’s deliver for girls and women to have choice NOT chance.  And LET’s agree that less bad will never be good enough.

Thank you!