Katja Iversen is Dane of the Year 2018

Katja Iversen, President and CEO of the global advocacy organisation Women Deliver, is Dane of the year 2018. Fold sammen
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Foto: Niels Ahlmann Olesen

Our readers and our jury have voted: the Dane of the Year 2018 is Katja Iversen, President and CEO of the global advocacy organisation Women Deliver.

Katja Iversen, 49, has three big heroes:

Nelson Mandela, Pippi Longstocking and her own maternal grandmother who, despite being able-minded and eager to learn, was never given the opportunity to get an education and instead ended up working hard to pay for the studies of first her brother and then her husband.

To Katja Iversen, these three people are proof that change is possible, and also serve as a reminder for her to sometimes slow down and ask herself if all the talking and all the good intentions are actually leading somewhere, to action and concrete results:

Is she changing the world or just talking about changing it?

It is the former that she is now being recognised for.

On Thursday afternoon, Katja Iversen was honoured as Dane of the Year 2018 at a festive event on the top floor of Berlingske’s offices in Pilestræde in central Copenhagen.

The Dane of the Year award is now in its fifth year and is given to a person who has set and achieved remarkably ambitious goals – goals for the benefit of others, that is.

Katja Iversen is given this recognition for her work as CEO of the global organisation Women Deliver which has as its mission – and manages to achieve – the improvement of the rights and opportunities of girls and women across the globe, focusing on reproductive health and education.

Girls and women can, and girls and women want to be given the same opportunities as men, says Katja Iversen, who moves confidently among presidents such as France’s Emmanuel Macron, prime ministers such as Canada’s Justin Trudeau, and royals such as Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary, who have all contributed to putting the issues highlighted by Women Deliver on the international agenda.

In explaining the selection of Katja Iversen as Dane of the Year 2018, Berlingske’s Editor-in-Chief Tom Jensen said:

»The aim is improving conditions for girls and women. With this, you have contributed more than most people in the world. You are a Dane who makes a difference to millions of people around the world.«

In his speech, Tom Jensen emphasized that there is nothing incongruent in being both Danish and open to the world, something that even Hans Christian Andersen recognised when his contemporaries criticized him for travelling far and wide from his fatherland, and also something that all previous recipients of the Dane of the Year award have shared with Katja Iversen:

»Your work is global, Katja Iversen. But the core of what you are doing is very Danish,« Tom Jensen said, adding:

»There is no contradiction in being Danish and working on a global scale. Doing so makes it possible to change the world for the better, for many. You are one of the very finest examples of that.«

Katja Iversen was present to receive the recognition herself, though she normally resides in New York where Women Deliver is based. But then, she is rarely to be found at home, spending towards 300 days a year travelling.

Clearly honoured to receive the award, Katja Iversen thanked Berlingske for the recognition, declaring herself ready to fight on to achieve the changes she would like to see in the world:

»It is crazy and amazing and wonderful to receive this award. Crazy because I am actually not that well known in Denmark. Amazing because, in honouring me, you are also giving this award to a cause – the equality and health and rights of girls and women, things that exemplify Danish values and what Danish development policies have stood for and fought for through decades across all political boundaries. And wonderful because this award for me is also an award for the entire team at Women Deliver, showing us that our work is not just worth it – it is also being seen,« Katja Iversen said.