The Iceland women’s strike

iceland strike 2

By MC staff.

Transforming society through the Iceland women’s strike

Did you know that Iceland is one of the most egalitarian nations on the planet, with more women in positions of power in all sectors, relative to the population, than most other countries? Iceland has topped the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index every year since 2009. The Iceland women’s strike has a lot to do with that.

In 1980 Iceland was the first country in Europe to elect a female president and then held on to her for 16 years. Who knew? That wouldn’t have happened without a cold but sunny day in 1975, when 90% of the country’s women went on strike, to stop their menfolk taking them for granted and to campaign for equal rights.

The date was 24 October and to make the strike appear less aggressive, they called it a ‘Day off Work’, with women even asking for time off to go and participate in the rallies.  At the time, women suffered badly from unequal pay and sex discrimination at work. There were only three sitting female MPs, just 5% of the parliament at that time.

As a result of the strike, the country came to an effective standstill, with women stopping all work both in and out of the home.  They refused to go to work, or to cook and take care of their children. Schools and nurseries couldn’t operate without their mainly female staff, so the men had to take care of their own children for a change. Offices were filled with children, as the dads struggled to cope. Organisations could barely function.

The men called the day ‘The Long Friday’ such was the impact of the striking women! The day proved so affective it has been repeated, with the last such national ‘Day off Work’ being held in 2010.

Read the full story and listen to an interview with Europe’s first female president Vigdis Finnbogadottir on the BBC website


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