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!