The pilot-phase 2009–2013

The Gender Equality Studies and Training Programme (GEST) was established in January 2009 through an agreement between the University of Iceland and the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The decision was made after the conclusion of a pre-implementation phase – overseen by the two parties – which included a feasibility study and a Project Document. The goal of the GEST Programme was to become accredited as part of the United Nations University, which was achieved in 2013. During the pilot phase, 29 fellows from Afghanistan, Palestine, Uganda and Mozambique completed the Diploma Programme.

Two academics at the University of Iceland, Irma Erlingsdóttir, Director of EDDA and RIKK – Institute for Gender, Equality and Difference, and Sigrídur Thorgeirsdóttir, Professor of Philosophy, initiated the project. In the pre-implementation phase, three specialists, who were hired on a temporary basis, took part in laying the groundwork for the project: Sjöfn Vilhelmsdóttir, MA in Political Science (2008–2009); Audur Ingólfsdóttir, MA in Law and Diplomacy and a specialist in the field of International Relations, Gender and Environment and Iris Björg Kristinsdóttir, MA in Anthropology. With the expansion of the GEST Programme, its staff team grew. From 2009 until 2014, it consisted of four employees (one full-time and three part-time): Irma Erlingsdóttir (PhD in Literature and a specialist on gender issues), Executive Director; Annadis G. Rudólfsdóttir (PhD in Social Psychology and a specialist on gender issues), Studies Director (2009–2014); Hildur Fjóla Antonsdóttir (MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation), Project Coordinator (2010– 2014), Lilja Dóra Kolbeinsdóttir (MA in Education and Development), Project Coordinator (2011-2013) and Rakel Adolphsdóttir (BA in History), Administrative Assistant and Project Coordinator (2012–2014).

Along with permanent staff members, many people have actively taken part in the Programme’s development. Close to 30 Icelandic and international teachers and specialists have contributed to teaching sessions every year. The Programme has developed important links with institutions and organizations that have introduced fellows to their work in the field of equality and human rights.

GEST’s Steering Committee (May 2009–February 2012) was responsible for the development of the Programme. It was chaired by Sigridur Thorgeirsdóttir, Professor of Philosophy at University of Iceland. For the 2012 transition and extension phase, the Rector of the University of Iceland replaced the Steering Committee with direct oversight authority vested in the Dean of Humanities, Professor Ástrádur Eysteinsson.

UNU Gender Equality Studies and Training Programme (UNU-GEST) since 2013

An independent evaluation of GEST was conducted in June 2012 as one of the key prerequisites for GEST joining the UNU network. The results showed that the goals, quality and structure of the Programme correlated with the requirements of the UNU network. Following the successful evaluation, the three parties concluded a trilateral agreement in May 2013 between the University of Iceland, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and the UN Universities (UNU), formalizing GEST’s membership in the UNU network.