Established in 1907, the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association (IWRA) was the first formal organization of Icelandic women focusing its efforts on the struggle for political equality between men and women, as well as demanding equal access to education, political appointments and the workplace.
The founder of IWRA was Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir, a leading voice in the Icelandic suffrage movement. She served as the first chair of the association and held that office until 1927, when her daughter, Laufey Valdimarsdóttir, took over the post.
On IWRA’s 100th anniversary, the association looked back and celebrated the many victories and goals that had been reached. However, reflecting that we still live in a profoundly unequal society, IWRA decided to continue to operate “until full gender equality has been attained”.
In recent years, the focus of our work has been increasing women‘s representation in parliament and in leadership positions in financial institutions and large companies, combatting gendered wage inequality, increasing the number of women in the police force and the judicial system, lobbying to make gender studies a mandatory subject in secondary schools, and raising awareness about harassment and violence against women online.
Upon request by the Icelandic parliament and individual government ministers, we study and formally comment on parliamentary proposals and on other matters relevant to gender equality.
We actively support women‘s culture and women artists, and encourage the excavation, preservation and celebration of women‘s history in Iceland. We publish one of Iceland’s oldest magazines, 19. júní, an annual magazine about equality and women’s rights, first published in 1951. In recent years, the publication of the magazine has primarily been online.
We have published several books about women in politics and culture. Our most ambitious publication to date has been the history of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association 1907-2012, which, even today, remains the most complete record of the women’s rights movement in 20th century Iceland.
We regularly host open meetings, conferences, seminars, and other events on gender equality, women’s rights, and women’s history and culture.
The structure of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association is cross-political, and, since 1944, the political parties represented in Althingi, the Parliament of Iceland, have been representated on the board. Until recently, these political appointees were only women. At present there are fourteen members on the board of IWRA, thirteen women and one man, eight elected by the members of IWRA and six appointed by parties currently represented in Althingi.
IWRA has a representative on the Gender Equality Council of Iceland and a founding member of the Icelandic Human Rights Centre. IWRA actively cooperates with partner organizations in the Nordic and Baltic states, and has been a member of the International Alliance of Women (IAW) since 1907.
The chair of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association is Fríða Rós Valdimarsdóttir. Tatjana Latinovic serves as vice-chair.
Other executive board members are Dagný Ósk Aradóttir Pind, Helga Dögg Björgvinsdóttir, Hildur Helga Gísladóttir, Hugrún R. Hjaltadóttir, and Steinunn Stefánsdóttir. Alternate board members are Ellen Calmon, Eyrún Eyþórsdóttir and Snæfríður Ólafsdóttir. Brynhildur Heiðar- og Ómarsdóttir serves as managing director.