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“Don’t Change Women, Change the World”

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“Don’t Change Women, Change the World”

October 24, 2016.

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Women in Iceland are organising to walk out of their jobs at 2.55pm on Wednesday, October 24, Mbl.is reports. This is the fifth time that women in Iceland have staged a mass walkout in protest of the gender pay gap since the first time the Kvennafrí, or “Women’s Day Off,” protest was held in 1975. Previous walkouts took place in 1985, 2005, 2010, and 2016. “We urge women to walk out,” remarked event project manager Maríanna Clara Lúthersdóttir. “Not just for themselves, but for all other women in Iceland.”

In recent years, the walkouts have taken place at the exact time at which women have earned their wages when compared to their male counterparts. In 2005, this meant that women left their jobs at 2.08pm. Five years later, they left at 2.25pm. In 2016, they left at 2.38pm. According to the Kvennafrí website, the gender pay gap adjusted for working hours is at 16%, but the income gap is still quite high: on average, women in Iceland earn 74% of the wages of their male counterparts. “We have gained only 47 minutes in 13 years,” reads the website. “If progress continues at the same pace, we will need to wait another 29 years before women in Iceland have the same wages on average as men, in the year 2047!”

While the gender pay gap is still a primary contention for organisers, this year’s Women’s Day Off is expanding its points of focus to include workplace violence and harassment. “It’s all about workplaces and workplace issues,” said Maríanna Clara. “...We’re speaking out about human rights and [working] conditions in a broad sense.”

This year’s event is not only aiming to expand into rural areas across the country, but also to emphasise the importance of supporting immigrant women in Iceland who, per the website, “...in many cases lack the support networks native-born women have and are therefore especially vulnerable to violations of rights at the workplace and violence.” As part of this effort, website resources and materials were translated by volunteers into fourteen languages, including full version translations into English and Polish, and partial translations into Albanian, Chinese, Czech, French, Greek, Portuguese, Serbian, and Spanish.

Maríanna Clara says that Kvennafrí has attracted the attention of organisers in other countries as well. “Women in Norway have been in touch with us, as have women in Poland, Italy, and Germany. We decided, since there was a call for it, to have a slogan in English, too: ‘Don’t Change Women, Change the World.’”

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