Human rights are a new invention. Same with women’s rights. Have you heard the phrase? ‘Women’s rights are human rights,’ it’s a darn good phrase, I feel—wish I’d thought of it.
There’s more details, but those come from more knowledgeable, experienced people than me —like ‘women’s rights are a subset of, and partially distinct from, human rights.’ Anyway, that’s a tiresome, boring, and over-precise slogan, right? I agree.
The UN Charter was signed on June 26, 1945, so was instantiated only 71 years ago. It’s young. So both modern human rights and women’s rights are young. Many citizens of the world come from times without the charter, the imagined landscape of, by simply being human, deservedness—of rights, for humanity, and its women and children.
Imagine that: a world without rights. Well, we live in one naturally, but socially, culturally, even societally. Heck, they’re pretty darn important. Human’s, children’s, and women’s rights help enforce decency.
Those times without the charter and similar documentation do have a response, I suppose. With validity and bumpy consistency, which can be applied to some sectors of some nations and some whole countries today, places without them, knowledge or implementation. Scary.
Women earned the right to vote in the US in 1920. Pretty good. In Canada, 1919, depending on the province, little better; in the UK, 1918, even better, and so on, Saudi Arabia only in 2015. Technically, our democracies are young.
Lots of societies deny children and women rights. Children and women, even some men, in sections of a society without rights, or other citizens as second-class citizens, non-persons, simply persona non grata—an unwelcome person.
“Why are you here? And while you’re here, you will not have the rights and privileges of us. Got it, buster!” Not fun. But there are other cases. Societies as exemplars with some outstanding standards and people. Bars are set by them. Precedents are made by them. Iceland is one of them. It’s a land of firsts, I feel.
As described by Kirstie Brewer from Reykjavik, in 2015, about 40 years ago—as delineated at the time—women in Iceland went on strike. That wasn’t the first strike ever; however, it was a preliminary salvo.
When November, 1980, swung around the corner, Vigdis Finnbogadottir (“dottir” as in daughter, of “Finnboga” back in the day, I assume) won the presidency in Iceland. To boot, and to break taboos, Finnbogadottir, or more properly Vigdis, was a single mother. Not bad; so that was a first, and an unlikely first because single mothers tend to be near the bottom of the social strata.
Not only for the region, but for the world, Vigdis was a first for democratic elections. She was the first female or woman democratically elected as a head of state.
There’s a common sense saying about a woman leader then influencing girls with the assumption of all girls. I doubt that, but think some, even most, girls saw president Vigdis as an representation of possibilities. It’s a good thing, but not an all-encompassing inspirational deal.
Many women and girls do succeed without the need for prior representatives, but, for others, helps give a beacon. Different strategies for different women and girls for women’s and girls’ empowerment.
And Iceland, not only is a place of firsts, it is #1. The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Gap Index 2016 states the nation is first in the world for the gender gap as well.
The Guardian has reported on it, too. They say, “The Icelandic government has pledged to close the gender pay gap by 2022.” Also, a first, as far as I know, and the short list here likely extrapolates to other unlisted aspects of Iceland, the place of firsts.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.