Our purpose is to empower women, inspire them and encourage them to improve their situation and development in the society towards gender equality. We think it is due time to share our experience of founding a new political movement, The Women’s Alliance, and representing it within the political establishment. We want to tell the story of how initially a handful of women in Iceland managed to make themselves heard and initiate a fundamental change in their society. This was not easy, but it brought about the joy of solidarity, sisterhood and empowerment.
A movement like The Women’s Alliance cannot be exported to other societies without social and cultural adaptation, but it can illustrate that women, united and building on their own experience, can change their own life and their societies. This initiative of Icelandic women shows that united and organised women can change their own lives and society.
Women that were instrumental in founding and/or representing The Women’s Alliance are ready to share their experience in one or more of the following ways:
ICELANDIC FEMINIST INITIATIVE
Feminists must unite and build a world of justice, equality and peace.
IceFemIn - Icelandic Feminist Initiative - is a movement founded 2017 by Icelandic women in support of women's liberation, equality and parity, both in Iceland and abroad. The women of IceFemIn have all been working for women's liberation for many years and have a broad experience in politics, social matters and gender research, especially from their activity within The Women’s Alliance. The women of IceFemIn want to use their knowledge and experience to support women and feminists in their struggle for gender equality and freedom, also to hold governments accountable and introduce new ideas and demands for radical social change.
The United Nations have been working on developmental projects to improve the situation of women - which is acknowledged as the key to a better, more just world. The tasks are numerous. We are faced, not just with an imbalance of power between the sexes, but hostilities and wars with enormous loss of life, floods of refugees and threats to Mother Earth and her resources. Poverty, inequality, sexual violence and abuse of power are all too common across the world. This all stems from age-old and ingrained patriarchal power structures that promulgate the role of the male as „masters of universe“, where women and children suffer. These oppressive and destructive power structures must be uprooted.
Around the world, liberation movements work on empowering women, improving their conditions and promoting their right to shape society. New ideas and methods have been introduced into the feminist debate. Nevertheless, too many women around the world are getting nowhere, because they are given no voice and no space by a hawkish male-dominated system. Although we in the world are on the way towards gender equality, we are a long way from reaching the end of the journey.
IceFemIn believes that they can contribute by educating, discussing and demonstrating how Icelandic women have succeeded. The current position of women in Iceland has been judged one of the best in the world by the World Economic Forum – thanks, first and foremost, to the initiative and solidarity shown by women's movements, for example the aforementioned Women's Alliance.
IceFemIn offers advice, lectures, discussions, mini-courses and conferences. We will use social media to reach women’s movements. We need to turn defence into attack, and put a stop to militarism and greed. We need to build power structures that serve the people of the world instead of the short-term greed of the tiny minority who have appropriated the resources of this earth. Feminism is a way to change. Feminists must unite and build a world of justice, equality and peace.
WHO WE ARE
We are women who have been active in Icelandic feminist movements for decades. We have knowledge, experience and a history to share with you.
HISTORY OF ICELANDIC WOMEN'S MOVEMENTS
Icelandic women united across political boundaries in 1975 when they celebrated the United Nations Day on 24th of October by laying down work to demonstrate the importance of women’s work for the economy. Over eighty percent of women in the country did so and brought Icelandic society to a standstill that day. The strike gained international attention and put Icelandic women's activities on the international map as did the election in 1980 of Vigdis Finnbogadottir, the first democratically elected female head of state in the world.
In 1982 women in Iceland united across established political divisions and formed a feminist political movement, The Women’s List (later The Women's Alliance, 1983), as an alternative to traditional political parties in municipal and national elections. This political action permanently changed the political landscape in Iceland, had a major impact on the other political parties and was instrumental in the big leap Iceland took from scoring poorly on gender equality in the beginning of the nineties to being a front runner , which has taken the top spot for nine years in a row and remains the top performer on Political Empowerment.
Icelandic society was dominated by men and their values, and the voices of women echoing their gender determined experiences were not present in decision making bodies. Women were simply not listened to. The Women's List was established in 1982 to run for municipal elections in Reykjavik and Akureyri to make women's voices and women's interests and concerns heard everywhere, not least in the public arena. In 1983 The Women’s Alliance was founded to run for Parliament. It turned out to be a very successful political action with long term impact. From 1982 to 1999 The Women's List and The Women´s Alliance took part in municipal and national elections competing for votes with the established political parties. In 1982 women were 6% of municipal councillors in Iceland and 5% of the members of parliament but in 1999 their percentage was 28% and 35% respectively.
By its success The Women's Alliance drew attention to issues of fundamental concern to women and changed age-old perceptions about women in society. It brought to light the importance of women’s gender specific experience and how the implementation of women’s human rights such as freedom of thought and action would benefit society as a whole. It set a precedent, encouraged women throughout the society and in its wake a number of women’s NGOs came into existence. It provided a feminist check on the political parties that responded by taking up many of its ideas and by placing more women in viable seats on their lists. Although Iceland still has a long way to go in gender equality it has for the last nine years headed the World Economic Forum list of countries with the least gender-discrimination. Iceland has closed more than 87% of its overall gender gap but that achievement did not happen overnight or without a struggle. The Women´s Alliance brought without a doubt the paradigm shift that was needed. It gave women visibility and a voice in the political arena and hence the ability to change the world they live in.
The Women's Alliance managed to bring marginal women's issues into the limelight and change the political debate permanently. It put on the agenda issues that had never been brought up in Parliament such as domestic and sexual violence against women and children, pornography and rights of homosexuals. At its initiative the first Rape trauma service for victims of sexual violence and a shelter for women were established. Among the bills issued was one proposing a longer maternity leave as well as suggesting a special paternity leave for men. As pacifists The Women's Alliance wanted to disband military alliances, eliminate nuclear weapons and implement peace education. Environmental issues played a big role in the agenda of The Alliance, and its representatives in Parliament presented the first bill on establishing a ministry of environment.