I would like to start by sharing with you the story of Palmira – a young girl I met in Mozambique, who became a single mother of three boys with three different fathers.
She told me that she became pregnant after her first sexual act because they had no information about safe sex and that she was a teenager with no ability to negotiate safe sex. Her third child was born with serious eye problems because, as she explained, she had contracted an STI which went untreated.
Again, lack of access to information and services. All three men rejected their responsibility, which meant Palmira had to drop out of school to take care of her children – and at the same time drop her dreams of creating a better life for herself.
Palmira is far from alone in facing such difficult challenges at such a young age.
Globally, 1 in 5 girls give birth before they turn 18.
16 million girls between 15 and 19 give birth annually. And for many, the price is much higher, as pregnancy and child-birth complications are the leading cause of death for adolescent girls in low and middle-income countries.
There are 222 million women in developing countries that want to prevent pregnancy but are not using modern methods of contraception – resulting in:
• 80 million unplanned pregnancies
• 20 million unsafe abortions
And every day, 2.400 young people become infected with HIV and an estimated 448 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections occur annually.
Alarming numbers and just a few, of the many indisputable arguments, that sexual and reproductive health and rights must be part and parcel of the global development efforts (your efforts) in the years to come; also beyond 2015.
It gives me great pleasure to open this First Global Conference on Contraception, Reproductive and Sexual Health arranged by the European Society of Reproductive and Sexual Health. I am particularly pleased that Copenhagen has been selected as the Nordic venue.
Here we have Örestaden with the bridge as a physical link to other parts of Scandinavia, an international airport that opens for global collaboration and a Nordic research and academic environment devoted to progress in pharmaceutical and medical science.
A very warm welcome to all of you. I am certain that you will have a productive congress, and I hope that you also find some time to experience a little of what our beautiful country has to offer, in this, my favourite season of the year.
During the next three days, your congress has assembled specialists from more than 60 countries around the world representing, opinion leaders and international societies active in the field.
The primary purpose of the Conference is the empowerment of women and improvement of all aspects of sexual and reproductive health care. The emphasis will be on the challenges related to regional differences, cultural and political diversities as well as new technologies. Pivotal aspects will be the benefits of well-planned training, diagnostics and therapeutic approaches.
The contributions of science from your noble profession have already contributed to a major decrease in the burden of disease related to unintended pregnancies by improving sexual and reproductive health.
The issue of preventing maternal deaths in childbirth and promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and youth is close to my heart and a subject I have been working with for several years as patron of UNFPA, WHO – Regional Office for Europe, Maternity Worldwide and as a member of the High-Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights are at the core of human life, whether rich or poor. Whether, when and how many children to have are central choices in life, but this is particularly true for women given their biological and social roles within communities.
We all know that women and adolescent girls, who have control over and can make informed decisions regarding their sexuality and the number, timing and spacing of their children, are:
• Healthier and better educated, as are their children
• Able to participate in the workforce
• Empowered to take on more responsibilities and participate in community activities that contribute to economic and social development.
• More likely than men to use family resources in ways that benefit their children and their communities.
The issue of sexual and reproductive health and rights is intrinsically linked to the challenge of empowering women and girls, reducing poverty and maternal and child mortality. New preventive and medical initiatives are, therefore, necessary on a global scale.
This conference will provide you with all the possibilities to discuss such initiatives based upon inside scientific information from biological signals and from outside sources related to environmental, socio-economic and political indicators and demands.
Extension of best principles from reproductive medicine means: Every child is a wanted child.
You – as specialists – can present evidence and demonstrate the vital significance of reproductive and sexual health.
Denmark, together with the other Nordic countries, has a long tradition for education and research within reproductive health care. A lot has been done but there remains still much to do.
Let me therefore conclude:
Modern women need and deserve high-quality consultations with health professionals to educate them about the process of reproduction and how this relates to sexual health and quality of life. This is for the benefit of the individual, the family and society.
With these words and by the lighting of the torch, a symbol of the Nordic Summer Light, I officially open the First Global Conference on Contraception, Reproductive and Sexual Health. The torch will burn, during the course of the conference, as ongoing inspiration for dynamic discussions and social interaction.