In late May, 2013, three GOJoven Fellows attended the Women Deliver Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on full competitive scholarships furnished by Women Deliver. The conference brought together advocates from around the world to call for action to improve the health and well-being of girls and women. Public Health Institute and GOJoven would like to congratulate Elmer Cornejo, Errol Longsworth, and Iris Reyes, all from Belize, on winning the scholarships and participating in such a successful global event!
The European Commission awarded Elmer Cornejo an additional scholarship to attend the 100 Young Leaders Pre-Conference, a workshop that brought together 100 young leaders from 68 different countries. Elmer reported that the event provided attendees with tools to carry out advocacy activities and communicate effectively with potential donors:
“Investment in sex education and access to sexual and reproductive health services for young women were the issues that were raised emphatically by Latin-American and Caribbean participants [of the 100 Young Leaders Pre-Conference]. I highlighted that both areas could bring about a big change, not only for the development of women in the region, but for society in general.” – Elmer Cornejo, on the Pre-Conference
One thing that stood out to Elmer was the moment when Jill Sheffield, Founder and President of Women Deliver, said in the opening plenary that the past three years have seen tremendous momentum for the health and empowerment of girls and women worldwide. Sheffield said, “Maternal deaths have declined by nearly 50 percent since 1990, proving that our goals are within reach.” Elmer said that this statement gave him goose bumps, and marked the beginning of a three-day whirlwind that ended in an action plan for ensuring that girls and women are prioritized in the new development framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.
Errol Longsworth represented GOJoven at the Women Deliver Cinema Corner, a space for filmmakers to share their work surrounding maternal and child health. Women Deliver selected the GOJoven Digital Story “Where are you…/Dónde estás…” created by Roberto Morales (2005 Guatemala fellow) to be screened at the Cinema Corner, and Errol Longsworth presented the film on behalf of Roberto. Errol said the experience was “life-changing,” and that the audience was intensely moved by Roberto’s story.
In an unexpected turn of events, the audience and the Cinema Corner moderator encouraged Errol to show his own Digital Story, “The Mirror/El Espejo,” after screening Roberto’s story. The audience congratulated Errol for his courage and willingness to share his story on such short notice.
Errol welcomed the challenge of choosing which breakout sessions to attend at the conference. He said that the agenda was packed with a wide range of topics all revolving around Millennium Development Goal number 5, Improve Maternal Health. At times he found himself dashing from one to room to another, and wished he could attend multiple sessions at once. Errol said that attending the conference was an incredibly meaningful experience:
“I am very grateful for the opportunity of partaking in this conference. It was a life-changing event and the experience and knowledge gained is not only beneficial for me, but for my organization. I plan to share the information that I have learned and brought back home to my work and my community. This was also beneficial for my country to have had a presence on a global level to help promote the country for further development.” – Errol Longsworth, on bringing the experience home to Belize
Iris Reyes was pleased to see the conference’s emphasis on women’s leadership. She said that in Belize, it’s rare to see women in high-level leadership positions in government and business. Women face numerous barriers to political and financial success, including lack of access to education and contraceptive methods, and a cultural attitude that women can or should not be in positions of power. As a Business teacher and entrepreneur, Iris noted the connection between poor access to contraceptives and failed distribution models; she said that if we treated contraceptives as we treat any other product or material good, we could harness the power of international distribution networks and increase access to family planning methods across the globe. For Iris, attending the conference allowed her to exercise her own leadership:
“I really appreciate the opportunity given to me to be part of the conference. I am very privileged to have been invited. I learned so much, with so many people from different countries and backgrounds, all there for the same reason: to improve the lives of women, girls, and youth. When I left the conference, I made a commitment to advocate, to be the change I wish to see in the world.” – Iris Reyes, on what the Women Deliver conference means to her
We are proud to call Elmer, Errol, and Iris members of the GOJoven family. Keep up the great work, fellows!
To view photos, watch videos, and see the full agenda for the 3rd Global Women Deliver Conference, click here.