UNU-GEST Fellows visit Icelandic Parliament

Last Friday, as a co-curricular activity, UNU-GEST fellows visited the National Parliament of Iceland (Alþingi). The fellows were led around the new and old parliament buildings by Birgitta Bragadóttir who presented to Alþingi’s history through paintings and art installations in the buildings. The fellows visited different offices and meeting halls, including the Chamber of Parliament. There, the fellows were briefed about the first woman in Alþingi, the Iceland’s first and only female president and Iceland’s first female prime minister. Furthermore, the fellows were briefed about the general composition of men versus women in the Parliament, especially across different political parties.  

After the tour around the parliament, former Minister for Social Affairs and Equality, Þorsteinn Víglundsson, met the fellows and briefed them about the Icelandic legislations related to gender equality. He also gave an overview of the development of legal and policy frameworks seeking to achieve gender equality, and protecting the rights of women. The fellows had a fruitful discussion with the former minister, centered around promoting gender equality in employment through equal opportunities and pay. The Minister highlighted the 2008 Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men (as amended), which fosters gender mainstreaming in all domains; and the 2000 Act on Maternity/Paternity Leave and Parental Leave (as amended), allowing a 9-month paid maternity/paternity leave.

Suhaila Mubariz, a fellow from Afghanistan who is seeking to design a project aimed at increasing political participation in her country, was inspired by the success of attributing to the inclusion of women in leadership and governance. Suhaila says that these examples strengthen her arguments for a full and effective political engagement of women in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Valerie Jepkemoi, a fellow from Kenya looked at the architectural and interior arrangements with a gendered lens, pointing out that the portrait of the first female president was not placed in an isolated location as was the case of the first male president. Furthermore, Valerie observed that most portraits of women were placed in the sitting room, associated with comfort while men’s portraits were located in rooms of importance.

During the postgraduate diploma programme, the UNU-GEST fellows will visit Icelandic institutes relevant to the curriculum of the Gender Equality Studies programme.