1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Iceland: Women hold all-day strike for gender equality

October 24, 2023

Iceland's prime minister Katrin Jakobsdottir took part in the country's second all-day strike for gender equality, saying that the fight for equality is moving too slowly in the island nation.

Protesters gather in Iceland's capital in support of women's rights
Iceland has topped the rankings of gender equal countries for the past 14 yearsImage: Arni Torfason/AP Photo/picture alliance

Women in Iceland walked off the job on Tuesday, with tens of thousands gathering in the capital Reykjavik for a rally in support of women's rights.

Organizers said the all-day strike was a statement to demand equal pay and to protest violence against women.

Icelandic women have held the protest day six times since 1975, but this is only the second time since then that is has taken the form of a full-day strike.

"On October 24, all women in Iceland, including immigrant women, are encouraged to stop work, both paid and unpaid," organizers of "Kvennafri" (Women's Day Off) wrote on their website.  Some 22% of the female workforce is foreign-born, according to Statistics Iceland.

"For the whole day, women will strike, to demonstrate the importance of their contribution to society," organizers said, adding that non-binary people were also encouraged to participate.

Strikers also highlighted the unpaid work that is usually done by women. "For this one day, we expect husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles to take on the responsibilities related to family and home, for example: preparing breakfast and lunch boxes, remembering birthdays of relatives, buying a present for your mother-in-law, making a dentist appointment for your child," organizers said.

Schools and libraries were closed or operated on limited hours, while hospitals said they would only handle emergency cases.

Icelandic PM joins strike

The country's prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, also took part in Tuesday's strike, walked off the job and attending the Reykjavik demonstration.

"She will not attend to official duties and in that regard today's scheduled cabinet meeting has been moved to tomorrow," a prime minister's spokesman said.

Jakobsdóttir is Iceland's second woman to hold the position of prime minister. She told Icelandic media that the fight for equality is progressing too slowly.

"Looking at the whole world, it could take 300 years to achieve gender equality," Jakobsdottir told the Ras 1 public radio station.

Iceland has topped the rankings of gender equal countries for the past 14 years, leading the way in wage quality, education and health, according to the World Economic Forum.

But women's rights activists say the country must still do more to improve women's lives.

Some 40% of Icelandic women experience gender-based and sexual violence in their lifetime, a University of Iceland study found.

jcg/wmr (AFP, Reuters, dpa)