W.O.M.E.N. samtök kvenna af erlendum uppruna á Íslandi (Women Of Multicultural Ethnicity Network in Iceland) was founded on the Women‘s Strike Day (kvennafrí) October 24, 2003. The association will hold it’s 20 year anniversary this Thursday the 26th. The goal of W.O.M.E.N. is to unite, to express and address the interests and issues of women of foreign origin living in Iceland in order to bring about equality for them as women and as foreigners in all areas of society.
Peer support group
Over the last 20 years, W.O.M.E.N. became a major voice in advocating for foreign women’s rights and equality in Iceland, as much as an agent of support and empowerment. Women come to Iceland for different reasons, but once here, we encounter specific challenges related to employment, education, and gender, each on their own or interconnected. At the core of these issues is often isolation and lack of information. W.O.M.E.N. thus created early on a peer support group. This peer support group is the heart of our association and is made exclusively of volunteers, also women of foreign origin, with precious knowledge and experience. Peer support is often the front line when women encounter difficulties in Iceland, as it is often easier to confide and trust another woman of foreign origin who understands first hand our situation and feelings, and builds up confidence before going to authorities or deal with procedures. Peer support does not provide legal nor psychological advice, but guide women to the right resources and authorities, making them feel supported and not alone.
Sharing and celebrating cultures
Other activities throughout the years included organising regular workshops related to employment, job search, informative nights about the health system, divorce p rocess and residency, computer literacy, self-defence classes, and empowerment. As important as learning, we are also sharing and celebrating our cultures with each other through fun, like our popular World Food Café (Þjóðlegt Eldhús), dance sessions, acting classes, winter crafts and the World Garden through the Söguhringur kvenna, or just social nights with drinks and fun! This is important as we create a sense of community and support.
Make voices of foreign women heard
W.O.M.E.N. is proud to have gained a seat on committees like the “Fjölmenningaráð” (Multicultural board) of Reykjavík City, the national “Velferðavakt” (Welfare monitor), and the Human Rights watch where we can make the voices of foreign women heard on social and public issues. We cooperate with many other civil societies (Kvenréttindafélag Íslands, Mannréttindastofnun Íslands, Bjarkahlíð, Stígamót, Kvennaathvarf), and regularly receive grants to support our projects. For example, W.O.M.E.N. was proudly awarded the Mannréttindaverðlaun Reykjavíkurborgar in 2018 for their work which was a source of social change during the #MeToo movement in Iceland.
The 20 years anniversary will be held on Thursday 26th of October at Tungata 14, 101 Reykjavík. Registration to the event can be found here .