8 powerful portraits of ordinary women changing the world for the better.
The Women Deliver Fourth Global Conference in 2016 was the largest gathering of people focusing on women’s issues in more than a decade.
The event, held every three years since 2007, brought together people from around the world to discuss heath, well-being and rights of women. The conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, brought together nearly 6,000 people from 169 different countries.
The power of these women sharing their personal stories and ideas with one another cannot be denied.
It’s emotional. It’s empowering. And it’s a reminder that when we listen to and support one another, it’s possible to tackle these challenges on a global scale.
Here are eight of their stories shared with portrait photographer Andreas Bro.
(Edited for length and clarity.)
1. Praise Emenike, Nigeria
Praise works with Family Health International to get resources and services for people with HIV/AIDS.
“The biggest issue today is gender-based violence. We have gender based inequalities everywhere. In the place where I work, women would need consent from their husband to access a simple HIV test. That shouldn’t be an issue, to have access. They should be able to decide for themselves. And women who have unintended pregnancies, they should be able to decide this is what I want to do, this is how many children I want to have, and sometimes they dont have that opportunity.”
2. Clementina Ilukol, Uganda
Clementina is a leader of young midwives.
The best advice I have received is to take much time at school and acquiring higher levels of education and not be rushing into marriage. I am still single, and I feel I should work hard as far as school issues are concerned, and after that I will get married.”
3. Laraib Abid, Pakistan
Laraib is a senior manager for Pakistan Afghanistan Tajikistan Regional Integration Program (PATRIP) Foundation. She works to empower women living in the border areas of these nations.
“The main issue over here is that still majority of the women aren’t considered equal to men. Their choice, mobility, wishes all are dependent on men. … She is supposed to look after the family, cook, and clean home even if she is earning. This is a grassroots/micro level problem that directly affects the overall behavior and life of the people. Until daughters and sons both [are] treated equally, we can’t come out of domestic violence, sexual assaults/harassment, even teasing, honor killing, etc. When a daughter is asked to iron clothes of her brother, polish his shoes, cook for him, and that brother doesnt take a glass of water by himself and can take decisions of his sister’s life, then how come we can achieve equality? The institutions, i.e., education, marriage, politics, health, family, and media, all gets influenced by this.”
4. Gretchen, U.S.
Gretchen is a retired science teacher and school administrator.
“The best advice I have received is be yourself and work for others because you gain power by working with others.”
5. Chidinma Akpa, Nigeria
Chidinma, in her final year of medical school, studys surgical education.
“The biggest challenge today is gender inequality. I would say most of the work women do goes unrecognized, unappreciated, unpaid for and most times they are even looked down upon … . At times a woman is even the brains behind all the work being done. But somehow you find out that the appreciation is given to a man. It is repackaged, and they say ‘with the help of’ … and the whole thing goes to a man. Especially back home in Africa. So I want us to, in terms of intellectual progress and creativity and innovation, let’s give women a chance to come and stand side by side.”
6. Denicia Cadena, U.S.
Denicia is a policy director at Young Women United, an organization that leads community organizing efforts for women of color in New Mexico.
“I think most of what I’ve learned about change-making in this world has come from my mother, my sisters, my grandmothers, and I think in a different connected way from my ancestors. But it’s really about focusing work in the community and that the people who are the most impacted are the experts of their own lives and will have the best solutions we need for our communities.”
7. Edidiong Michael Umoh, Nigeria
Edidiong is a maternal child health officer.
“The best advice I got was from my godmother. She’s a judge in one of the states in my country. She used to say something to me when I was living with her at my [second] year of university: ‘Whatever your hands find to do, do it as your are doing it onto God and not onto man because men will never reward you.’ Always learn how to do whatever it is that you want to do with the mindset that you are not doing it for anybody, you are doing it for yourself.”
8. Sadiqa Basiri Saleem, Afghanistan
Sadiqa is the executive director of the Oruj Learning Centre, which focuses on the education of women and girls.
“Well, I will say the biggest issue for me is that women [are] seen as an issue … . This concept, this understanding should be transformed into something brilliant that both men and women are active and a productive part of a whole society. Without women, this world cannot move on. So once this understanding is global, is universal, we will not see women as an issue.”
Thankfully, this is a conference for dreamers and doers.
Following the conference, participants put together a document cataloging 100 of the best ideas and solutions to come out of the event.
Women have come a long way. But with generations of women still fighting for a fair shake, a good education, economic opportunities, and health services, we have no time to get complacent.