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  • Sara Moniz

Women that trade crowns for swords

People around the world have often heard about the strong and independent Icelandic women. With the elections going on and Iceland being the european country with the highest percentage of women in the parliament, I decided to talk a little about this union and conquest that has already become national pride and mention some influential women who have changed the history of the country and of the world.

I will begin by mentioning Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who was the first woman in the world to be democratically elected president in 1980. It is impossible to measure the influence she had for the Icelandic nation and today she is very loved and highly respected by the people.

Next we have Björk Guðmundsdóttir, one of the most influential and respected singers in the world, always one step ahead in terms of innovation and promotion of her art.

And, I couldn’t forget to mention Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the first woman to hold the position of Prime Minister of Iceland and the world's first openly LGBT head of government.

Iceland was chosen as the best country in the world for women and we can understand why. Among many reasons, I think it’s important to mention that in 2018, Iceland was officially the first country to impose equal pay for men and women in its legislation.

Before that, in 2016, the Icelandic woman was widely spoken internationally for different reasons. There was an MP that spoke in the parliament, live on national television, while breastfeeding her daughter. For many countries this had a great impact, however for Iceland it wasn’t a big fuss since the Icelandic people are so used to see public breastfeeding and deal with it in such natural way. And then, Miss Iceland gave up an international beauty pageant because she was asked to diet.

I used these recent examples to explain how Icelandic women have always fought for equality and respect by taking a stand, but this strength comes from far behind, if we travel to the Viking era, we can see how women already had access to a higher status and social freedom compared to women from other cultures in the same era. The Viking woman could own property, file for divorce if not treated correctly, refuse unwanted male attention, which was protected by law, and share with the man the responsibility of managing their property and land. It is also believed that the woman of this time had leadership positions, as an example of this, the discovery of the royal funeral made to the "queen" Aasa who was buried in a large boat filled with valuable goods. It is believed that her funeral ship was the most beautiful Viking ship built, today it is known as the ship Oseberg and proves that this woman was loved by many and had several subjects at her service.

The Icelandic sagas speak of warrior women and sailors, being Auður Djúpauðga the most famous of them, who sailed through the open seas with her husband and slaves and settled in Iceland, she was the leader and chief commander as mentioned in her tales.

Given the prevalence of these legends, along with the greater rights, status and power that the woman of this era enjoyed, it certainly seems likely that women over the years would maintain this strength and courage in achieving more.

Women in Iceland represent a small fraction of the women in the world, but they contribute a lot to give them a voice.


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