Gender Equality in Iceland
Gender Equality in Iceland
One of the fundamental premises for an egalitarian society is gender equality. Although often tied to the concept of sex, gender is a more inclusive term encompassing an individual’s sense of identity. Iceland is a pioneer when it comes to gender equality being the only country in the world to have closed more than 90% of its gender gap.
If you’re curious about how Iceland has achieved such remarkable strides in gender equality, keep reading our blog.
History of Gender Equality in Iceland
The turn of the 20th century with the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement was a time of great change in Iceland. Gender equality in Iceland, however, dates even further back with Iceland becoming the first country in the world to grant equal rights of inheritance to men and women in 1850. Similarly, women in Iceland gained the right to vote in local elections in 1881.
Women’s organisations in Iceland can be traced to the second half of the 19th century. Although the first group focussing on women’s unity was formed in 1869, it had no specific political goal. The Icelandic Women’s Association is the first political women’s organisation in Iceland. Formed in Reykjavík in 1894, the group’s parliamentary petitions resulted in the expansion of women’s voting rights in Iceland.
The 20th century saw two landmark achievements in gender equality in Iceland. Ageism against women was combated when women over 40 gained the right to vote in national elections in 1915. By 1920, the age barrier over voting was eliminated. Similarly, women also gained equal rights over their children in 1917. These feats laid the groundwork for much of the political activism regarding gender equality in Iceland.
The 24th of October 1975 was a turning point in Icelandic history when 90% of the female population in Iceland went on strike for the Women’s Day Off.
How did Iceland Achieve Gender Equality?
Iceland has always been an advocate of human rights conventions, especially those relating to gender and women’s rights. Gender perspectives have always been a key focus of developmental policies. Currently, the Government of Iceland is running its seventh gender equality programme.
Iceland’s Gender Equality Policy has focussed on four key areas to achieve such outstanding results.
Education: The right to education is a fundamental human right that has been addressed in Iceland’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Iceland’s government promotes education for boys and girls equally, taking steps to combat illiteracy with practical education. Furthermore, the Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) also supports education for children and adults in partner countries as well.
Healthcare: Iceland is committed to improving healthcare for its residents, particularly women’s reproductive and sexual health. The local health projects supported by the ICEIDA emphasise maternal and neonatal health. Additionally, the agency is also responsible for improving water sanitation efforts to boost the overall health of the Icelandic population.
The Environment: Iceland is a pioneer of sustainable energy. With women traditionally being relegated to the domestic sphere, geothermal energy can improve the living conditions of households when compared to the use of biomass for cooking. The ICEIDA promotes women’s empowerment through income-generating activities, as well as through participation and representation of women in decision-making bodies.
Peace and Security: Gender-based violence is a common occurrence during conflict. The Government of Iceland is dedicated to safeguarding women’s rights during conflict and promoting peace-building initiatives. It advocates the UN Security Council’s Resolution 132512 (2000) which addresses the importance of women’s participation in peace negotiations.
The fight for gender equality is an ongoing one. As remarkable as its achievements have been, Iceland is committed to the pursuit of complete gender equality.
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