“Faroe Islands has a unique problem. Women are leaving.” Guðrun í Jákupsstovu at #FeministPeripheries
In June 2017, Coppieters, together with European Free Alliance Youth, presented its book “Feminism on the Peripheries of Europe“, a collection of essays by young authors from around Europe on why feminism is important to them and their communities. The book launch aimed to engage young people on intersectional feminist issues and inspire cross-cultural solidarity.
If you missed the book launch, here is our interview with Guðrun í Jákupsstovu, feminist activist and literature student from Faroe Islands.
Is the gender pay still a problem in highly-developed Faroe Islands?
GJ: In my article I talk about how even though women are becoming better qualified than men, men still dominate leadership and upper management positions in most sectors. The higher you go on the corporate structure, the fewer women you can find. To complicate the issue of our gender pay gap even further, almost half the female workforce is in part-time positions. The paradox is that even as women are becoming better educated, the situation remains the same. I think this is because of invisible social structures, like how we are raised and told to perform our gender.
In the Faroe Islands, girls are encouraged to pursue higher education, but no one talks about the double burden of work and family life on women. Faroese women are being sent extremely mixed signals about what is expected: “we want you to fulfill your academic potential, but we also want you to be a good mom.” We are still expected to take on more domestic responsibilities than men. One of the solutions that I see to combat this problem is to legislate mandatory paid maternal and paternal leave, so that the work of raising children becomes more familiar to men, and women are not unfairly penalized at work for their decision to have a family.
How do young women in Faroe Islands experience this problem?
GJ: The Faroe Islands is surrounded by successful and progressive welfare states, but as a small nation we are still lagging behind in terms of gender equality. Our feminist movement is alive and kicking, but we face a unique problem: our women are leaving. Young women in particular go to study abroad and do not return to the Faroe Islands after graduating.
The first reason for this is that our specific geography determines our economy, and as it is based on male-dominated industry and fishing sectors, many young women decide to look for a different path abroad. The second reason is the persistence of gender roles that I mentioned earlier. Sadly Faroese politicians are only focusing on the fact that “we lack women of child-bearing age,” as many of them often repeat. We have to stop thinking about women only as tools for reproduction.