Third week of May 2016: the streets of Copenhagen are colored in yellow, orange, blue, purple and green. Danish women are dressed in their traditional clothes and wander the streets. On the occasion of the 4th Women Deliver Congress, which aims to improve women’s and girls’ health, rights and well-being globally, almost 6,000 women and men from all over the world came together in the Danish capital.
Cécile Koch reports
When Wonderful Copenhagen asked me to participate in the congress I immediately said yes. I had already attended the association’s third congress in Kuala Lumpur in 2013 and was interested to see how the Women Deliver organisation would perform and how Copenhagen would top KL’s edition!
Women With Power
Speakers and panelists came from various horizons, whether from the government, political institutions or private companies. The plenary session entitled “Men with Power” especially drew my attention. What, indeed, drives men to stand up for women? Amercian physician Willie Parker’s mother was a driving force for him for instance. A genuine belief that “only together men and women will create a better society for all” added Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tedros Adnanom of Ethiopia who received the “Women Deliver Award for Perseverance” from President Jill Sheffield. The congress indeed wanted to focus on solutions, and not just talk about problems.
Huge support came from several queens – from The Netherlands or Jordan – and princesses – from Denmark and Norway – who since years advocate to improve women and girls’ well-being. Over 800 students had applied to attend this congress for free, along approximately 320 journalists and more than 120 exhibitors. It seems the congress has turned into a larger-than-life event, with an impact stretching out far beyond its original intentions.
Why Denmark, why Copenhagen
One of the first questions that came up to my mind was of course: “Why did the association choose Copenhagen as their congress destination?” President and founder Jill Sheffield said that Denmark's position on gender equality was a major reason.
But there was more to it. Katja Iversen, Women Deliver CEO, said that the people of Wonderful Copenhagen and all Danish suppliers involved made it so easy for her. She said: “With 115 concurrent sessions, 20 plenary sessions, and only 18 staff in the organisation and a lot of protocol, the congress is quite complicated to grasp and set up. But the Bella Center has been designed in such a way that it is easy to find your way and to feel at ease: attendees found ample place to network and could watch panel discussions on screens placed in the open areas.”
But this kind of organisation also requires a very tough and professional dedicated team. As Henrik Dyer, congress director of BDP, the destination management company in charge, told us, they had to make up more than 26 different categories of participants, 16 different types of badges, deal with all kind of visa problems, and take care of over 120 exhibitors. In short, there were months of preparation and very few hours of sleep before and during the event…
The Bauhaus approach
But still, why Copenhagen? you would ask. Of course, the fact that Denmark has been ranked the world's best country for women to live in according to the US News and World Report, helps. But that was in2015 and the congress decision had been taken in 2014…
Lotte Hansen, from the Danish Women Deliver Consortium, explained how she and her team decided to approach the organisation in a different way. She said that she applied the Bauhaus School of Art philosophy called “Form-follows-function”. This entails that the inner value related to the congress should be developed first, and then followed by the actual putting up of the form. “Once the agenda has been set, you can make the right partnerships within the Danish community and you are able to find fitting speakers and panelists. It has as advantage that the content is specific and clear to all and acted upon accordingly”, she said.
Many local municipalities and museums but also ministers and mothers worked together around gender equality in an extensive outreach program staged in Copenhagen in conjunction with the congress. Public activities such as exhibitions, concerts, debates, bike runs and happenings took place all over town. It seems everyone in Copenhagen was involved: public and private companies, cultural institutions, sports- female- youth- and migrants- associations, the City of Copenhagen itself, the Danish Monarchy and the Danish Parliament… the outreach was enormous.
Discoveries in Copenhagen
Food and Copenhagen are almost synonymous. Who does not know Noma? But I discovered some other restaurants which will also appeal to foody lovers. Restaurant Fru Nimb, situated in the famous Tivoli Gardens, has, a very stylish Nordic white setting with typical Danish food. The open sandwiches have been created here and, according to the chef, the sandwiches are all lavishly topped with love! (www.frunimb.nimb.dk)
Ahn Lê (see sidebar) founded her restaurant some years ago. She has found inspiration for her cuisine in her Vietnamese roots and she pays a lot of attention to fresh ingredients. Nice waiters, taking time to explain the different dishes, attention to all details… all this contributes to a welcoming and warm ambiance. And as if it was necessary to raise the bar, the chef is French! Worth noting also is that, next to the restaurant Ahn has also set up buffet and reception catering services. (www.lele.dk)
Another new idea came up from Mette Helbaek. According to her, “if apicture says a thousand words, a meal says even more”, so her language is food. She created a concept called ‘Table Street Cuisine’ in the Copenhagen Market Hall, where you share food with other Torvehallerse (Market Hall) guests seated across 100 tables. Mette also runs a much sought-after restaurant in the greenhouse of Denmark’s first rooftop farm, Stedsans ØsterGro. (www.cleansimpellocal.com)
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