Spring til indhold

Tale ved åbningen af fotoudstillingen ”Velkommen verdensborger nummer syv milliard”

Udviklingsministerens tale ved fotoudstillingen "Velkommen til verdensborger nummer syv milliard" afholdt den 9. november 2011 på Københavns Rådhus.

(Det talte ord gælder)

Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen – and students!

It is indeed a pleasure to be here today with all of you – and a special pleasure to open this exhibition together with a group of students. You represent our future and are an important segment of the worlds’ now seven billion people as Safiye Cagar from UNFPA has just explained to you.

As we stand here – somewhere in the world – a very poor young girl only your age is giving birth to a child. If she is lucky enough to go to school it will probably mean she will have to drop-out immediately – leave her friends and future behind her. If she dreamt of having an education beyond the school, her dreams will most likely never come through. She has a high risk of becoming sick, or even die, while given birth, and her child has a high risk of never reaching the age of five. What should have been one of the happiest moments of her life – giving birth to a baby – is also one of the most difficult, perhaps even desperate moments in her life.

I tell you this introduction to emphasize why Population Policy matters and why Denmark is supporting the excellent work of UNFPA.

For many of you the term “Population Policy” may seem very abstract. And the often used term in international negotiations and meetings “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” seems even more technical and abstract. In addition, it is difficult to pronounce – yes, it is an almost hopeless combination of words.

But let me tell you, both as a father and a minister, the fundamental concept of Population Policy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights is quite straightforward! It is about giving people, and especially girls and women, knowledge and allowing them to decide freely on matters related to their own body, on their life and future.

Let me be a bit more concrete and explain a fundamental element of Population Policy: Sexuality education! In my generation, modern sexuality education became a part of our school curriculum. We learned how our body matures, about menstruation, contraception and relationships.

I still recall how as a young teenager I could sometimes blush and feel a bit awkward when we were discussing these intimate issues in class in front of my teacher and my friends. But I also know today that not talking about these issues certainly has a price.

When my parents’ generation were young – about the age you have today – sexuality education hardly existed. There were girls that thought they were seriously ill when they had their first period because nobody had told them that that was a natural part of being a young woman. And - to be a bit anecdotic – many young people at that time had heard nothing else than the story that babies are found under the gooseberry bushes – or were brought by the stork, as we prefer to phrase it in Denmark!

As a consequence, some young girls got pregnant and had to leave school. Often they would have to give up their education, the career, and the life they hoped for. Somewhere even punished hard and their newly born babies were taken away from them.

Sadly, this is still the case in many developing countries today. In the exhibition, you will see a photo of a young girl, Asia, with a story similar to the one I told you as an introduction. She is nursing her baby while her other daughter plays on the floor. Asia is just 14 years old and already a mother of two. This is a very big job for a young girl and leaves her little or no possibility to get an education and fulfil her potential and ensure a better future for her and her kids.

Every year this happens to 16 million young girls. Their lives could look very different, if they and their boyfriends had access to information and to condoms or other contraceptives of their choice, giving them the possibility to wait and not have children until their bodies are more mature, they have an education and are able to choose when and with whom to have children.

To give young girls like Asia a real chance of deciding over their own life is a main reason why I as a minister for Development Cooperation work actively towards ensuring that all students your age in developing countries also receive comprehensive sexuality education in or outside school. Without information and education we do not give young people a fair chance to make free and responsible decisions about their lives. So this is why Population Policy is important!
For Denmark, UNFPA is a key partner in the promotion of this kind of sexuality education for young people – both when it comes to persuading national governments to have sexuality education in and outside school and when it comes to designing and conducting education for young people. In Mozambique, we have for many years supported UNFPA’s youth programme “Geracao Biz”. The programme has been very successful because young people are involved in the planning and implementation of the programme.

Besides having sexuality education in school, most of you can access information about your health and contraception via the internet, via your IPhone, Smartphone or simply by visiting your doctor. And then there is the old fashioned way – visiting a library – which my kids actually still enjoy to do.

And you can access medicine and contraception easily. Some places it is even free of charge! But if you live in a small village in a poor country in Africa or Asia you do not find a pharmacy or a Seven Eleven around each corner. And if you do, prices are often very high.

This leads me to my second point: Teaching young people about sex is all very fine. But it is to no avail, if they don’t have access to high quality and affordable contraception. For Denmark making such services available, especially for youth, is a priority for the cooperation we have with our partner countries. It is also a key area for our cooperation with UNFPA. Unfortunately, there is an unholy alliance – or rather a holy alliance – of countries and groups – ranging from conservative religious groups in the US and all over the world, the Vatican state and some muslim and conservative countries who work against easy and cheap access to contraception for all women and men. Let me tell you that I and the Danish government try our best to counter these groups and countries – and work for effective contraception for all.
To this end, I am happy that only a few hours ago we have decided to donate an additional 50 million DKK to UNFPA to supply and distribute male and female condoms to developing countries.

Luckily many other countries are taking similar actions, many countries change their policies and old-fashioned practices, and all over the world, most recently in countries like Tunisia and Egypt, young women and men rise up for the rights and claim themselves a better future. There is indeed hope for girls like the one in the introduction, there is hope for girls like Asia.

In a few minutes, when you go to see the photos in the exhibition, I hope you will understand why population issues are important and why it deserves high priority in Denmark’s development cooperation. It is much more than numbers and words. You will see how lack of access to information, health services and poverty greatly influence the lives of so many of our fellow seven billion citizens.

I also hope you will understand why I, the Danish Government and UNFPA work hard to ensure all girls and boys, women and men access to relevant information and services and thus to make their own choices in life, decide themselves how many children they wish – and when they want them. . . Even though it might take some of you a few more years to truly appreciate the sometimes awkward and uncomfortable discussions on human sexuality in school!

I hope you will enjoy and be enlightened by the exhibition. And I hope you will join our efforts to fight for – back to the technical term - Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for all girls and boys, women and men.

Thank you!