Why Iceland is the best plaza in “the worlds” to be a woman

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Since 1975, the Nordic country has fired the trail in gender equality and now, from infancy to maternity, women and girls experience a progressive life. But how did they achieve it?

Rebekka is so tiny that, even on her tiptoes, limbs aloft, she cannot contact. So her teacher elevates her up to the unvarnished wooden ape rail. One, two, three, her classmates weigh. She hangs on, determinedly. When she reaches 10, she rushes to the dirt. I am strong, she screams proudly.

Its an everyday morning for this single-sex class of three-year-olds at Laufsborg nursery school in Reykjavik. No dolls or cup-cake decorating on the lesson scheme here. Instead, as Margrt Pla lafsdttir, the schools founder, tells me: We are instructing[ our daughters] to use their expres. We are studying them in physical forte. We are developing them in courage.

Its a fascinating approaching to education. And a popular one. In a number of countries of simply 330,000 beings, “theres” 19 such primary and nursery schools, empowering daughters from an early age.

For the past six years old, Iceland has topped the World Economic Forums gender breach index and looks likely to do so again this week. The Economist lately referred Iceland the worlds good neighbourhood for working women in comparison, the UK came in at No. 24. lafsdttirs philosophy seems to sit well with the nations progressive attainments, but her system of academies has been going for less than 20 times. So, if preschoolers trained in feminism arent the same reasons for this gender success story, what is?

History may provide us with clues. For centuries, this seafaring people women remained at home as their husbands spanned the oceans. Without guys at home, females played the roles of farmer, hunter, architect, make. They managed household business and were crucial to the countrys ability to prosper.

The Daughters of Reykjavik are a feminist rap collective who rap about gender issues. Image: ITV News

By 1975, Icelandic women were fed up. It wasnt simply that they werent being properly paid for their effort, they also were sick of the limited availability of political representation: merely nine wives has in the past won tushes in assembly. So, against the backdrop of the world feminist movement, Icelands ladies decided to take circumstances into their own hands.

An outpouring of women on to the streets was, by then, a well-trodden form of activism. In 1970, tens of thousands of women had protested on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. In the UK, that same time, 20,000 females marched in Leeds against discriminatory wages. But what obliged Icelands day of assert on 24 October 1975 so effective was the number of women who participated. It will not only be the impact of 25,000 females which, at the time, was a fifth of the girl population that reaped on the streets of Reykjavik, but the 90% of Icelands female population who went on all-out professional and domestic strike. Teaches, nannies, office workers, housewives put down tools and didnt go to work, furnish childcare or even cook in their kitchens. All to substantiate how crucial they were.

Thordis Loa Thorhallsdottir, CEO of a tourism fellowship, was on wall street that day: I was 10 at the time, and I remember it very clearly, standing there with my mother, fighting. I can still feel the crowd and the power that was there. The large-scale meaning was that if girls dont occupation, the entire community is paralysed the whole society.

Grassroots activism at such a magnitude unsurprisingly had a significant material impact. Within five years old, the country had “the worlds” first democratically elected female chairwoman Vigdis Finnbogadottir. Now in her 80 s, this steely-eyed powerhouse tells me of the impact that day of complain had on her working careers trajectory.

I would never have been elected in 1980 if it hadnt been for the womens epoch of war because when my precede announced that he was not going to stand again, the articulations were immediately listened: now we have to have a woman among the candidates.

Iceland is a very good place to be a woman. Photograph: Loftur sgeirsson/ Reykjavik City Museum

Other landmarks soon followed. An all-female political party the Womens Alliance was fixed. More maidens were elected to parliament; by 1999, more than a third of MPs were women.

And then, in 2000, parental leave legislation is entered into gist: whichevery person I spoke to highlighted this moment as key to Icelands march to the top of the gender-equality table. Today, every mother receives three months paid leave that is non-transferable. Parents then have an additional 3 month to share as they like.

Because the pay is significant 80% of salary up to a ceiling of 2,300 a few months and because its on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, 90% of Icelandic leaders take up their paternal leave. This piece of social engineering has had a profound impact on followers as well as women. Not only do dames return to work after giving birth faster than before, they return to their pre-childbirth working hours faster, extremely. Research shows that, after participate in the 3 month leave, parents continue to be significantly more involved in childcare and do more housework. Sharing the parental responsibilities and errands from the beginning, it seems, makes a difference.

Its a good region to be a woman, enunciates Thorhallsdottir. And it is. Almost 80% of Icelandic women toil. Thanks to mandatory quotums, nearly half of board members of registered corporations are now girls, while 65% of Icelands university students and 41% of MPs are female.

Yet, girls I matched on my travel were also clear that the two countries has a long way to go. They still have less economic ability than soldiers only 22% of directors are girls; only 30% of experts on TV are women and, overall, servicemen pay 14% more. Icelands enter on all of these fronts is better than most countries; in the UK, womens hourly remunerate is 18% less than men.

It is the gender pay gap that puzzles me “the worlds largest”. How can it be that it is still so significant given the huge attempts the state has put into relieving the mummy retribution? Not only when it comes to parental leave, but with heavily subsidised nursery schools and after-school upkeep?

Explanations vary: from wives going into less well-paid professions, to the penalty paid for wreaking part-time that weve found in the UK as well, to the time it takes for employers implicit gender biases to shift.

Steiney Skuladottir, one of Reykjavkurdtur( or the Daughters of Reykjavik) a feminist rap collective who rap about gender issues makes the blame in part on women distaste to ask for sufficient offer compensation. Fellow rapper Bloer Johanusdottir concurs. Its like we cant be cocky. We are supposed to be modest.

Back at the school, lafsdttir has this to say: If you are learning from a young age “that youre not” going your rightful share, “if youre trying to” learn and training at waiting, what do you expect?

The Icelandic government has pledged to close the gender pay gap by 2022. And the women of the two countries continue to be highly organised and socially aware; an incredible one- one-third of Icelands females are members of a Facebook group ironically named Beauty Tips in which they actively discuss gender issues.

History teaches us that progress doesnt come about in a vacuum-clean and that grassroots pres plus investing in politics is a really powerful catalyst for change. In Iceland, it seems that they have both. In spades.

Noreena Hertz is economics writer of ITV News. Her report from Reykjavik, On Assignment, airs at 10.40 pm on Tuesday on ITV .

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