It wasn’t like this I had imagined my first in-person congress in three years. When the General Assembly approved five new member guilds, and the whole presidium was re-elected, I was isolated in my hotel room with COVID.
We were quite a few who caught the virus in connection with the congress, but luckily I haven’t heard of anyone who got seriously ill. And fortunately, I was eventually able to attend the post-congress tour of the Faroe Islands. An amazing experience.
Though I spent most of the congress in my room, I’ve heard from other participants that the Danish congress was very good. Denmark is a small country, but when it comes to agriculture, it is a superpower. And it has come a long way in its endeavour to develop a sustainable agriculture sector. The congress organizers showed us lots of good examples, which we could turn into interesting stories.
One of my most memorable moments during the congress was when a group of female participants told me that they were proud that IFAJ has got its first woman president. It hadn’t been such a big thing for me earlier, but their comments made me reflect on it. It’s really kind of sad that it took more than 60 years before our organization got a female leader. Not because women always are better leaders, but it’s sad that half of the population have been set aside for so many years.
Since this was my first in-person congress as president, I received a chain with all the former president’s names engraved on the back of the medallions. Lots of names of meritorious men, but not a single female until now. Let’s hope there will be many more in the future.
At the congress, we also had the opportunity to meet our Ukrainian colleagues again. The Danes had generously invited them and paid their travel costs. We were all moved when the Ukrainian president Larissa Guk and former executive member Iurii Mykhailov talked about how their farmers have to harvest fields which have been mined by the Russians, and how difficult and dangerous it is for Ukrainian journalists to work on the front line. They don’t just fight for their own freedom, they defend these values for all of us.
This is why congresses are such an exceptional happening. They show the whole range of our organization—from large to small countries, experienced journalists to beginners, men and women, young and old, who all meet on equal terms. I hope all agricultural journalists get to experience this at some point. It is an injection of energy and a spur for future professional life. Even if I wasn’t immediately convinced at my first congress in 1995, it was the start of my engagement in IFAJ. And it has given me so many new friends, colleagues, adventures and experiences.