Fríða Rós Valdimarsdóttir, the chair of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, addressed the annual global summit of Women Political Leaders, held in Reykjavík from 28-30 November 2017. Fríða gave the following remarks:
We are here to talk about gender equality in Iceland. About the current situation of gender equality.
We want start by showing you a video about the strike of the Icelandic women’s movement.
Women go on strike in Iceland because of income equality. We use this topic as we can all agree on that. We, the women in Iceland, have for over 40 years agreed that women and men are not equal when in comes to our income, when it comes to our paychecks, when it comes to the respect given to our work.
Women of all classes, in every job position, have shown up to protest. In 1975, 1985, 2005, 2010 and 2016, the woman working in the fish factory showed up and stood next to the woman working as professor at the university, stood next to a stay-home mothers, next the unemployed woman, next to the disabled student. We just show up.
We repeatedly nurture our solidarity. We focus on what we agree on: the gender pay gap. This is why we have come far, this is why we are number one.
Vigdís Finnbogadottir told us last Tuesday that she was elected president because of the women’s strike in 1975. If it wasn’t for that, she would never have won. And she was the first democratically elected woman leader of the world, a role model for all the others women world leaders, as has often been stated here at this congress. I sometimes ask myself: If women in Iceland had not gone on a strike, would we have had to wait even longer to have the first woman elected as our president. Would we still be waiting?
Vigdís also talked about peace. She always inspires me when she talks about peace. I grew up hearing her talking about peace. Telling us that we women shall unite for and in peace.
Vigdís and I, we come from a country where we don’t have war. We come from a country with no army.
I see it as our duty in Iceland to create tools to make equality for the whole world to use. We have the time. We have the natural resources to budget all of the feminist plans of the world, the money to build an island of equal rights, equal opportunities for all genders, for everyone.
In 2015, we celebrated the 100 year anniversary of women’s right to vote in Iceland. The parliament formed a committee to plan a formal celebration. The white, middle-class, middle aged feminists sat down to make a plan. They planned nice events and meetings and other traditional happenings.
Then what happened? Young women, with spontaneous, powerful and terrific wildness started a revolution. They were loud. They were online and they were many. They wanted their bodies back. They tolerate no sexual violence.
We can say that the Icelandic #metoo revolution started in 2015. Hundred of women told stories online of their experience of sexual violence. That led to people putting up these pictures as their profile pictures. Orange if you were a survivor, yellow if you knew a survivor. Facebook was full of those pictures.
Now, in 2017, we have a second #metoo movement and the revolution grows louder and stronger. The revolution is not about outing perpetrators. It’s about changing the culture for women in the future – for next generations. The ground was prepared two years ago. We are building on these foundations.
The women of #metoo are shouting all over the world. Finally, victims of sexual violence are being listened to.
The core of what is happening right now is that the relationship between men and power is becoming clearer. The way powerful men use sexual violence, repeatedly, use the same tactics, the same words, the same tools to push women away from power is now a common knowledge. And that is powerful.
Now, Icelandic men are facing the fact that this behavior is no longer tolerated.
So far, the biggest victory of the women’s rights movement in Iceland was to gain the women’s right to vote. The most effective way to maintain equality and get rights is to strike against inequality. – Let’s now move to the next level.
I have always been confident that when survivors of violence would finally be seen, would finally be listened to, the world would become a better place. I never thought that I would live those social changes in my country. But now I believe that I will. Because I am.
So I say to all you powerful women:
Break the silence
Stop tolerating men’s sexual violence
We can only do it together