On October 24, 2023, women and transgender individuals all over Iceland participated in a full 24-hour work stoppage, drawing attention to gender pay disparity and combating gender-based violence.
In a monumental gathering at Arnarhóll, the heart of Reykjavík, and across the country, thousands of individuals united to participate in a historic moment for Iceland. In Reykjavík alone, the police estimated around 100 thousand participants. This is an amazing turn-out in a country that only inhabits about 400.000 individuals.
Sonja Ýr Þorbergsdóttir, Chairwoman of the BSRB (the Federation of public worker unions in Iceland), reflects on the resounding success of the full-day women's strike, marking an extraordinary day for gender equality. The decision to emulate the iconic 1975 women's strike was deliberate, a powerful reminder that both women and workers are determined to address pressing issues. 'That's how strong we are together,' she declared, citing the compelling motivation behind such a massive turnout.
The demands of those backing the women's strike were outlined during the gathering. Now, the call is for politicians and those in positions of influence to heed these demands and incorporate them into their daily work. This demonstration of unity sends a clear message: society must evolve to address these issues.
The focus extends to women's unpaid labor, including childcare, housework, as well as management responsibilities, known as the 'third shift.'
Women's Day on October 24, initially observed in 1975 during the United Nations' dedication to women's issues, continues to be a powerful symbol. Key themes include closing the gender pay gap and advocating for gender equality.
Women's Day is not a public holiday but it represents a vital opportunity for women to participate, pending employer approval to abstain from work during business hours. Although it is officially presented as a strike, financial compensation is not provided from union strike funds. While the strike may result in financial sacrifices for many, it is a testament to the commitment to gender equality.
Many companies have accommodated their employees by granting leave on this day, recognizing its significance. Nonetheless, workplace challenges exist where activities cannot be easily reduced or halted. Effective communication with employers is key for those seeking to participate.
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