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Women’s Day Off celebrated today

In 1915, women aged 40 and over were granted the right to cast a vote in all official elections held in Iceland.

Among the suffragettes whose efforts and hard work led to the arrival of this important day was Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir who nonetheless was critical of women’s voting age, in an age when all men could vote at 25.

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Women’s Day Off

In an article published in Morgunblaðið today, June 19, Minister for Social Affairs and Housing, provides an interesting overview of the history of women’s rights in Iceland and its present day obstacles.

According to Eygló, the voting age was initially going to go down year at a time until it’d be equal to men in 1930, or 17 years after the right to vote was granted. However, changes in the constitution actualized in 1920, women of all ages were finally given the right to vote. The first woman to be elected into parliament was in 1922 when the Women’s Slate ran to parliament.

Still today, the number of women in elective roles is lower than it should be, and as Eygló puts it in her article, “we need to increase women’s economic power.” A bill of law passed by the previous government requires companies to even out the gender gap in the board rooms of corporations and pension funds.

Eygló points out in her article that despite the fact that Icelandic women are very active in the work force, they are still paid less, and perhaps the prevailing gender gap in the Icelandic work force is to blame. Men and women must be encouraged to break it by entering professions traditionally practiced more by the opposite sex.

As the working hours for men and women are marginally evened out, changes in domestic roles and a more equal participation of parents in child upbringing has to be taken into consideration.

“The market has to follow a family-friendly policy that suits men, women and children equally.” In a report from a committee put together to coordinate family and employment, several options are mentioned.

Access to child care facilities and good schools is essential. Also, education has to play a role in making Icelandic society an equal place to live. Parental leave is another essential tool for both men and women in the employment market.

According to Eygló, men need to be more involved in the debates around feminism and women’s rights. Next year, a Nordic conference for men during which discussions concerning men’s place in the fight for equality will be held in Iceland, as part of Iceland’s presidency in the Nordic Council.

Violence against women and children is also on Eygló’s mind but she feels ways must be found to exterminate its existence.

In conclusion does Eygló remind us how far we’ve come and how much better off Icelandic women are in comparison to many other nations around the globe.

“Let’s use June 19 to contemplate on the work of our suffragettes and look forward to the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in Iceland,” she writes in Morgunblaðið today.

To read more about the history of women’s rights in Iceland go here.

JB

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