Brynhildur Heiðar- og Ómarsdóttir, the Secretary General of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, attended the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2019, the annual human rights meeting of OSCE – Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and read the following statement on behalf of IWRA.

20 September 2019

Distinguished Representatives of the OSCE States.

I represent the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association and I present this statement to highlight three issues under discussion today, the gender income gap, the ongoing violence against women and the urgent need for civil society funding.

I want to begin by declaring that it is absolutely unacceptable that women in OSCE states are being paid less for their work than men. The persistent devaluing of women‘s contribution to society destabilizes our countries and is all the more infuriating because it is preventable, if only there were political will to prevent it.

We urge the governments of the OSCE states to move beyond pretty promises and concerned declarations and to look towards more proactive ways of ensuring gender pay equality. Iceland has recently introduced legislation requiring companies and institutions to prove that they are paying their employees fairly and equally for their work. The Equal Pay Standard is a tool which can and should be introduced in all OSCE states.

I also sit here today to declare that the ongoing violence against women in OSCE states is absolutely unacceptable. We, as a region, have both the resources and legislation available to combat gender-based and sexual violence. However, these tools are not being utilized effectively.

The stories shared in the past two years on social media using the hashtag #MeToo has shown us that violence and harassment against women is rampant in our workplaces and constitutes a clear threat to the security and economic wellbeing of women.

We urge the governments of the OSCE states to require workplaces to institute gender action plans and prevention measures to combat sexual harassment and violence. And we urge the governments to actively work towards ending all violence against women, and to adequately fund preventive measures, support and counseling.

Finally, I sit here today to urge the governments of the OSCE states to support civil society and organizations working on women‘s rights and gender equality.

We owe our democracy to the countless of women and men who for decades have fought for civil rights and equal rights. Any and all achievements we have made in guaranteeing gender equality can be traced to the democratic activism of a strong and vibrant women‘s movement.

In recent years, the voices of illiberalism have become increasingly loud, threatening our security and our very democracy. The best way to fight this illiberalism is to fund liberalism, to actively fund the civil society organizations that are working on equal rights and social justice for us all.

We urge the governments of the OSCE states to provide adequate financing and support to organizations working on gender equality and women‘s rights. Give civil society the tools they need to secure our democracy.

Thank you.

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