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! 

Guðbjörg Pálsdóttir // speech at Arnarhóll 2023

Dear women and non-binary people

It’s been amazing to witness the energy, all around the country, during the preparations of today, and it’s even more unbelievable to be able to stand amongst you today – and to feel this great support. 

We dare, we want and we can! We are here to demand actions! 

Actions that eliminate the gender-based injustice we face in various ways, every single day. We, women and non-binary people, face more headwind than men. That’s a fact.

At least 40% of women experiences gender-based andr sexual violence in this so-called paradise of equality, as Iceland is portrayed as today. 

Violence and harassment are not isolated interactions between perpetrators and their victims, but a historical, systematic injustice and imbalance of power that is dangerous to us – and even life threatening. It’s dangerous being a woman. It’s even more dangerous being a woman of foreign origin, a disabled woman or a trans woman. 

The same systematic imbalance of power also causes the great underrecognition of women’s contribution, both in the labor market and at home. This underrecognition has a direct influence on our financial security, which means that large groups of women are not financially secure, despite working full time. 

That’s why we say, united: Fuck the patriarchy! – FOKK FEÐRAVELDIÐ!

I have belonged to a large female dominated sector for a long time. And the thing that characterizes our work, just like every other female dominated occupation, is that they often involve personal relationships, a great responsibility and emotional stress, where the pace is fast and the value created is intangible. 

It’s no coincidence that care and educational work is undervalued, or that these are the jobs that are the hardest to recruit for — leading to understaffing, a fast employee turnover and an abrasive strain. 

But these are the jobs that keep our welfare society going every day—as was evident in the COVID pandemic. And now, when not everyone has the opportunity to take part, it’s clear that we’re essential. And for you who are working: We’re here for you ALL!

Women’s work is often invisible and undervalued, both paid work and unpaid. We care for elderly people, children, disabled people and sick people. And then we come home and take care of our children, our relatives and our home. And when the first and second shifts are over, the third takes place. A concept that many men don’t even acknowledge!

And on top of all this, we experience physical and emotional gendered violence or harassment. You call this equality? 

I want to quote one of the biggest legends in the history of the fight for women’s right; Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir:

“Many things in society break down, that men have neither insight into nor the will to understand, or thought convenient to fix. New, changed times are upon us, which demand a new way of thinking, and changes in our culture and governance”

Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir

These are the words of Bríet from 105 years ago, and they still hold true today. 105 years! 

Let’s stop focusing on the things that have been achieved since then. Let’s focus on the issues that remain, and let’s finish the fight!

We are many. We will not accept the reality of living in a violent society that undervalues women’s work systematically. We demand a society that pays us in accordance with the value that the work creates. A society that ensures a safe and healthy work environment for both women and non-binary people, and ensures equal opportunity for everyone. A society where men take equal responsibility for the second and third shift, and where perpetrators are held accountable for their actions. 

But even though the fight seems to be a struggle —and  it can seem easier to just look the other way from the injustice we face or see around us—we can still move mountains. 

That was evident in the Women’s Day Off in 1975. And that’s evident here today. And that’s what we’re going to do.

Go girls! 

Go non-binary people!

Statement 2023

Women’s strike October 24th 2023!

We demand that the undervaluing of female dominated occupations will be corrected!

We demand that employers stop receiving a discount on women’s and non-binary people’s wages!

We demand special action to raise the wages of the lowest paid women and non-binary people, because nobody should live in poverty!

We demand that wage inequality and discrimination will be ended!

We demand that women and non-binary people can make a living wage and have the same opportunities for professional development as men!

We demand that disabled women and non-binary people have access to job opportunities that improve their financial situation!

We demand that the skills and education of women of foreign origin is recognised!

We demand that women and non-binary people will no longer be punished for the unpaid labour they do in the homes over the course of their lives, that leads to lower pensions!

We demand a real effort from society to eradicate prejudice against people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ people, people of foreign origin and other marginalized groups.

We demand that men take an equal share of the responsibility that women and non-binary people carry. 

That they take responsibility for unpaid labour in their homes and care for family members!

That they take responsibility for the mental load!

We demand that women and non-binary people are freed from the financial shackles of their abusers. 

That women and non-binary people receive support to build their financial freedom after having gone through gender-based and financial violence!

We demand justice and legal remedies for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence!

We demand that perpetrators are made responsible and sexual freedom is respected!

That women and non-binary people are safe from violence and harassment at work, in the home and in public space!

That gender-based and sexual violence will be eliminated!

We demand that politicians make the demands of the Women’s Strike a priority!