Björk’s Harpa Concert Series Supports Women’s Shelter

Björk Guðmundsdóttir musician

Guests filled Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavík last night for the first evening of musician Björk Guðmundsdóttir’s four-concert series in support of Kvennaathvarfið women’s shelter. The concerts were postponed seven times due to COVID restrictions and are Björk’s first performances in Iceland in three years.

Twenty per cent of the profits from the concert series will go to Kvennaathvarfið women’s shelter in Reykjavík, specifically to support children – the shelter houses on average 11 kids at any given time, RÚV reports. The concerts are acoustic (performed without electronics and beats) and feature the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Hamrahlíð Choir, and other local musicians.

Though tickets to the concerts are sold out, those interested can follow along virtually. In Iceland, the concerts are broadcast live on RÚV’s Channel 2 as well as on via radio on Rás 1. Those located abroad can also purchase access to the live stream. The remaining concerts will be held on October 24 and 31 and November 15.

Women’s Shelter to Open in Akureyri

Akureyri in winter

The Kvennaatharf women’s shelter will be opening a location in Akureyri, North Iceland, at the end of the summer, RÚV reports. This will be the first time in over 30 years that there’s been a shelter for survivors of domestic abuse outside of the capital.

The Akureyri shelter will be open through next spring as a pilot project that director Sigþrúður Guðmundsdóttir hopes will clearly demonstrate the need for such a facility in the region. Sigþrúður says that two out of ten women who come to the Reykjavík shelter arrive from outside of the capital area.

“We’ve long wanted to better serve [people in] the countryside and this is the first step in that direction. There was, indeed, a shelter in Akureyri in the early days, in 1983/84, I think, but the day came that there weren’t grounds for a shelter there. But so much has changed since then.”

Kvennaathvarf has leased a space for the Akureyri shelter and hired staff. Sigþrúður says that local authorities and residents in the surrounding municipalities have been positive toward the initiative.

“Up until now, the only shelter for women who are fleeing violence in their homes has been in Reykjavík. This restricts the possibility of women in the countryside seeking assistance. About 20% of the women who come to the shelter at any given time are women from other parts of the country. It’s a certainty that the further the shelter here in Reykjavík is [from them], the more unlikely it is that they will come. And that’s natural. So it’s extremely positive for us to be able to provide this service out in the countryside – we’re really looking forward to it,” said Sigþrúður.

Akureyri to Open Service Centre for Victims of Violence

The Minister of Justice and the Minister of Social Affairs and Children have agreed to earmark a combined ISK 24 million {$200,402; €176,854] in the establishment of a new service centre in Akureyri for victims of violence, Vísir reports.

The Akureyri Chief of Police will oversee the project in collaboration with a number of other organizations: the town of Akureyri, the University of Akureyri, the Akureyri Hospital, the Health Care Institution of North Iceland, the Kvennaathvarfið Women’s Shelter, the Kvennaráðgjöf Women’s Counseling Centre, the Icelandic Human Rights Centre, and Aflið, the Association Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. They hope to open by March 1, at which point, the new centre will provide free social support services and legal advice to adults who have been the victims of violence.

A similar centre, called Bjarkahlíð is already operational in Reykjavík. The new centre, which is being created at the behest of the North Iceland Police, is intended to serve individuals living in north and east Iceland. It will run as a pilot program for two years and receive its funding from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Affairs, who are splitting the cost equally between them.


Extended Hours at Women’s Shelter During Cold Snap

red cross iceland

The Konukot women’s shelter will stay open all day in order to provide much-needed shelter for homeless women during the current cold weather snap in Reykjavík, RÚV reports. Typically, the shelter is only open in the evenings and early morning, from 5:00 pm to 10:00 am, but with temperatures hovering between -11°C [12°F] and 1°C [34°F] this weekend, the decision was made to keep it open during the day as well.

Konukot, which means ‘Women’s Cottage,’ is a collaborative project maintained by the Red Cross and the City of Reykjavík. According to shelter director Brynhildur Jensdóttir, there’s a regular group of women who utilize Konukot on a consistent basis and thus far, usage has been normal. However, she and the shelter staff want the women to have the option of staying longer if needed when the weather is particularly cold.

The nearby Gistiskýlið men’s shelter, also run by the City of Reykjavík, will be open during its usual weekend hours, that is the standard 5:00 pm – 10:00 am schedule. Use of this facility has increased considerably with the cold, and all of the beds have been filled. Five additional beds were provided on Friday, bringing the total up to 30.