First of its Kind: Iceland Women On Full-Day Strike
Iceland will come to a standstill on October 24 as tens of thousands of women and non-binary people, including Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, will stop work. Their mission is to draw attention to gender-based violence and undervaluing of women-dominated professions.
The latest strike, said to be first of its kind in nearly half a century, is similar to the 1975 women’s strike. But there’s a noted difference. The October 24 strike places emphasis on non-binary individuals. It challenges patriarchal subordination across all gender identities.
The strike is expected to surpass the number participants recorded during the 1975 Icelandic women’s strike. At that time, about 90 percent of women in Iceland stopped work to highlight the significance of women within the society and in the labor market.
Women are Undervalued
Sonja Yr Porbergsdottir, the chair of the BSRB Federation of Workers Union, says there has been progress in the fight for women’s rights in Iceland, but there is still a long way to go. She said the core demand for women’s work to be valued remains unmet 48 years on.
“The seeds for holding a women’s strike this year were sown around the 40th anniversary of the Women’s List – a feminist political party that took part in national politics between 1983 and 1999. A conference was held where the discussion revolved around the achievements so far, as well as the work that remains.”
Sonja pointed out that the 1975 Icelandic women’s strike was a joint venture of women’s and gender-diverse associations and worker’s associations. “The question arose whether a women’s strike should be held. The answer was a resounding ‘yes’ – everyone felt the same way, everyone had experienced this stagnation, and everyone believed that progress was not happening fast enough. No one wanted to wait any longer.”
Iceland Regarded as Equality Paradise
Freyja Steingrimsdottir, one of the strike organizers and communications director for BSRB, said Iceland is talked about like it’s an equality paradise. “But an equality paradise should not have a 21 percent wage gap and 40 percent of women experiencing gender-based or sexual violence in their lifetime.” She said it’s not what women around the world are striving for. “Having the global reputation that it does, Iceland has a responsibility to make sure we live up to those expectations.”
The strike organizers want to make sure that everything will work smoothly. “For one day, it’s not our problem, so let’s not try to make it easier for them.”