Alice Olivia Clarke // Speech at Arnarhóll 2023

Hello and welcome, women and non-binary people!

So, are you all here for the coffee and kleinur?

It’s amazing to be taking part in the biggest saumaklúbbur* of Iceland

*a special kind of women’s society where women pretend to sew, but mostly gossip and console each other  

Today, I took the bus from Hafnarfjörður, just like my mother in law did 48 years ago. To meet aunts and nieces and girlfriends. To stand, side by side, with other women. Women with signs and children in their prams. To stand united. To speak up and fight for equality. 

My mother in law talks about the energy in the air. The power of women. This energy is tangible in the air today. 

How amazing, that many of the children that slept in their prams are now my friends. And perhaps have returned today. Some with their own children. Or even grandchildren! 

Why me? This was the first question I asked myself. This typical question was the first thing I thought of when I was asked to address you.

And then…  

Why not me? I’m a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter in law, a mother in law. A Canadian. A Caribbean. An Icelander. 

We are breast cancer survivor, we are fighters, we are  lovers, we are  friends,  we are neighbours. 

We are warriors.

Our bodies carry scars  that tell our tales. Where we don’t carry physical scars, we carry mental scars. 

And now, as it was in 1975. We stand together. We stand with women who may not even speak the same language but  we are all here for the same reason.

Being here in Iceland for 30yrs has put me in a very unique position. Yes, there has been change. But with this change have come  new Icelanders on the work market. These new women (and by no means do I mean all) but some women, have become part of a new vulnerable class of women. Women who are definitely at a higher risk of losing their jobs if they decide to participate. Who may not have the same support systems and if they lose those jobs they can lose not only pay, but housing, and even risk deportation. This is a big part of why I am here today. We are taking the risks and using the privilege of being able to be here. For those who cannot. 

So no we are not quite there yet.

We do not have to understand each other with words, it doesn’t matter if the colours of our skin are different, whether we are differently abled,  or  even if we are born into a different body to what was expected of us.

We are all here today. Because we are human and part of this magnificent tribe. To stand in a group of this magnitude I can feel the air around us, energized, bubbling like champagne. Each one of us is a single bubble but together we will pop that cork of  unity.

And we are doing this. For the young women who will be here taking our places in the future.

Knowing that their future fight will be lighter. 

Good luck dear friends, today, and every other day. Thanks for the coffee!