In the framework of the Standing Committee meeting in Reykjavik, the ‘Women@PACE’ group organised a working breakfast together with all women members of the Icelandic Parliament.
After opening remarks by Women@PACE Bureau member Petra Stienen, the Prime Minister of Iceland and Minister for Equality, Katrin Jakobsdóttir, opened the discussion. She underlined that “all women can become leaders, but it is necessary to guarantee policies that help them in such a journey”.
Many female politicians in Iceland, she said, would never have got where they are today if it wasn’t for childcare and parental leave. And in this sense, governments and parliaments can lead the way by adopting policies that have been shown to bridge the gender gap, rather than widen it.
The 4th Council of Europe Summit, that will take place in Reykjavik in May 2023, must reaffirm Council of Europe values and standards, she said. “And values from today’s perspective, including gender equality as a basic human right, must be at the center of it,” she underlined.
Ásta Ragnheidur Jóhannesdóttir, former member and Speaker of the Parliament of Iceland, said the solidarity built by the Icelandic women’s movement in the 1970s and 1980s laid the foundation for welfare policies that have liberated women in the country in many ways. That generation, she said, was born into an atmosphere of women’s liberation. Little girls were surrounded by role models, where women took up more space in society than they had ever done before. Women were marching on the street and the first female president was elected.
Indeed, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the first ever elected female Head of State in the world, took the floor to underline that women “can do anything today” compared to what they were able to do when she was elected. They are no longer obliged to choose between having a family or having a career, limiting women’s participation in the labour market and their access to decision making.
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was elected to the Icelandic Presidency in 1980 over three male opponents. She was then re-elected three times, making her the longest-serving elected female head of state of any country.