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Princess Mary of Denmark: An example of empowerment

by Antón Castellanos Usigli, June 21, 2013

Some weeks ago, I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark to participate in a Symposium of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) at the First Global Conference on Contraception, Reproductive and Sexual Health, organized by the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health. Before Denmark, I visited Oslo. I had been so busy the days before the Conference that I hadn’t have enough time to look at the Final Program of the Conference until it was around 1 or 2 am in one of the nights I spent in Oslo. I just looked at the first pages of the Program and my surprise was huge. Her Royal Highness, Mary, Crown Pricess of Denmark, was scheduled to inaugurate the Conference and my surprise got even bigger a couple of days afterwards, when I had the chance to listen at her inaugural speech. With great intelligence and grace, Mary started her speech by talking about Pamira, a teenager she met in Mozambique and who at her very young age was already mother of three children (with three different fathers), one of whom was born with an eye disease due to a sexually transmitted infection. With this case, Princess Mary illustrated perfectly the reality of millions of teenage girls that year by year get pregnant without wanting it,  give birth and raise their children in deplorable social conditions. Mary pointed out the great importance of having more informed and empowered groups of women and said that sexual rights must be part of the global development agenda beyond 2015. Wow! I was completely blown away by Mary’s powerful speech. In Mexico, my native country, I have witnessed the disdain that many politicians and government officials have toward sexuality conferences. They are often reluctant to participate in such events and to speak in favor of sexual rights because of fear and ignorance, thus, it was very positive to see that in Denmark, a Princess has the wisdom to support them.

On the other hand, a couple of days after this great inauguration, I participed at the WAS Symposium. Kevan Wylie, WAS President, moderated the Panel, in which Lotta Löfgren-Mårtenson (a Swedish sexologist belonging to WAS Advisory Committee) also participated as a speaker. While Lotta talked about sex education in Sweden, I talked about the Round Tables of Discussion that I coordinated at the past Asia-Oceania Congress of Sexology (Matsue, Japan), at the European Congress of Sexology (Madrid, Spain) and at the Latin American Congress of Sexuality Education and Sexology (Medellín, Colombia). In each of these Round Tables, participants discussed the sexual health challenges of young people in their own countries, the current state of public policies in relation to youth’s sexual health and the factors needed to enhance youth advocacy. One of the most interesting points of my presentation was the fact that dispite geographical differences, the young people who participated at the Round Tables arrived to many similar conclusiones, like the need to have more spaces for youth in international meetings and conferences. There were many contrasts in their conclusions too, but the need for empowerment was a constant. However, empowerment becomes a difficult endeavour if a government or organization promotes the contrary: sumission, conformity, indifference and ignorance. If more countries in the world had the opportunity to listen to words and phrases like the ones spoken by Princess Mary, maybe the quest for empowerment wouldn’t be so difficult, but the harsh reality is that it has just began…