"Once you’ve put on your feminist glasses you can’t really take them off"

The University of Iceland’s Feminist Association celebrated Period Days for the first time this year

Margrét Björk Ástvaldsdóttir is a sociology student and the Vice Chairman of the University of Iceland’s Feminist Association, which recently celebrated Period Days for the first time. Many interesting lectures on periods were held during the Period Days, which lasted for three days.

The Period Days aren’t the only event the Feminist Association has hosted this year; they’ve had a couple of beer nights as well as movie nights, they helped organize the Women’s Day Off, arranged a seminar on women in literature and have taken a stand concerning student rights. Our journalist met with Margrét and took the pulse on feminism at the University.

So how did the first Period Days turn out?

I think that they turned out really well. We held lectures at Litla-Torg during lunch and then in the afternoon. We put up boxes with sanitary pads in the University’s bathrooms for everyone’s use. They ran out pretty fast.
I enjoyed how periods and menstruation were being discussed in the society: In the High School Paper, the Sambíó cinemas started providing customers with pads and tampons and then there was the Völvan project, covering the vulva and related subjects. It’s very much out there in the discussion and it’s cool how everyone is talking about periods and the pussy simultaneously. The plan is to host Period Days every year from now on.

Were there any outstanding lectures?

I really enjoyed listening to Gyða Margrét discussing the social aspect of periods, but then again I also liked Sigga Dögg’s lecture, it was almost like a stand-up. She is very experienced in communicating with teenagers and educating them about sex. Her discussion mostly revolved around period sex. Gyða talked about periods in a historical concept and how periods are exaggerated in the society. Women are different from each other and it is highly exaggerated how women act while on their period, that they become crazy.

What has the Feminist Association been up to this year, other than the Period Days?

We’ve had quite a few events. We’ve held three beer nights, where we met and discussed feminist related subjects that had been chosen in advance but also spontaneous subjects. The events have been open to everyone, regardless of whether they’re students at the University or not. Our association was also active in planning the Women’s Day Off.
Then we’ve hosted a few Bechdel movie nights and shown a movie called Intersex in co-operation with the Q association and the Intersex association. We also had a seminar on women in literature. It worked out great; we had three women come from different fields of literature. There was an author, an academic and an organizer of Fjöruverðlaunin, the Women’s Literature Prize. They all took part in the seminar. We might host more similar events if we have time.

Who belongs in the Feminist association?

Anyone who believes that gender equality has not been accomplished and wants to do something about it. So many different people belong.

Is there a special cause you’re working towards or is it a more general campaign?

The campaign is not general in itself, since each participating individual has their own interests and emphasis. The idea for the Period Days, for example, came from one of our board members and the seminar on women in literature derived from another member who has great interest in literature.
Like I’ve said, the aim of the association is to eliminate gender inequality, so the campaign can’t really be general. Attempting to do everything at once is not a good way to achieve equality, it’s better to focus on one issue at a time.
Our campaign is about opening up feminist discourse and promoting gender equality at the University as well as in the society in general. If a feminist issue arises, we want to be available for discussion. We've made public statements when appropriate, for example when Hannes Hólmsteinn, a UI teacher, claimed something in his lecture that we thought was inappropriate.
Margrét Björk Ástvaldsdóttir

Margrét Björk Ástvaldsdóttir

When did you start thinking about feminism?

It started in high school, or perhaps even in elementary school. I noticed discrimination and inequality all around me. We founded a feminist association at my high school, Menntaskólinn við Sund, and when I got to University I continued, because once you’ve put on your feminist glasses you can’t really take them off.

How do you perceive the general mood toward feminist discourse?

I feel like there’s a lot of interest in feminist discourse. People find it intriguing, they like talking about feminism, even though they don’t necessarily know much about its aims and purposes. Everyone has an opinion. Many voices, many perspectives and different opinions appear in the society’s debate on feminism.
Recently we had a promotion booth at the University’s Equality Days. In order to draw attention to the gender wage gap, we decided to make Rice Krispies cakes of two different sizes. The men were supposed to have the larger cakes but women the smaller ones (I think they were around 13,7% smaller). People’s reactions were really interesting when we offered them the cakes. Some women scorned and scoffed and grabbed the larger cakes anyway. Some of the men were afraid to take one when they realized what it was all about. A discussion with lots of questions derived from our experiment.

What are the upcoming events for the association?

We’re just starting to plan a Bechdel movie night, a feminist final party, and then we’re considering whether to host any more seminars or panel discussions. Maybe we’ll think of something drastic and fun that can draw even more attention to feminism. We’re open to ideas, people can always contact us through our Facebook page, which is called Femínistafélag Háskóla Íslands.

Journalist: Þorsteinn Friðrik Halldórsson
Translation: Þorgerður Anna Gunnarsdóttir

Interview first published in 4th issue, vol. 92 of Stúdentablaðið.









A helpful website for disabled students and students with learning disabilities

The team behind Rights-Ronja.

The team behind Rights-Ronja.

The University of Iceland is obliged by law to insure that information for disabled students is accessible and easy to find. Despite that there are a lot of things that can be improved and it can be hard to find information about solutions for students with learning disabilities. The team behind Rights-Ronja wants to improve access to information for those university students that are disabled or struggle with learning. To make that possible, the team collects information and places them in one place, in order to help students know their rights and what can be done to help them.

The idea first came to be within The Student Equality Committee two years ago. A handicapped student approached the committee as they had not gotten the service that they needed and they were unsure of what rights they had to claim that service. In the spring of 2015, Rakel Rós Auðardóttir Snæbjörnsdóttir and Sigvaldi Sigurðarson, members of the committee that year, saw an ad for applications for a grant from the Student Innovation Fund from Rannís and saw a good opportunity to research disabled students accessibility. They teamed up with Eirík Smith, a PhD student at The Center for Disability Studies and he became supervisor of the project. They were given the grant and started working in the summer of 2015.

Access to information considered bad

Interviews were taken with focus groups of students that require special service within UI where those students spoke of their experience and their ideas about services. The focus group consisted of 17 participants and the results of the interview were used in the decision making. All participants agreed that information for solutions could be more visible. Over half of all participants thought that access to information for services and rights was insufficient.

Very few thought that the website for Student Counselling and Career Center, www.nshi.is, was useful, and everyone thought that they would use the website of Rights Ronja. When looked into these matters, it was clear that the solutions were not aimed at individuals and that there was a prominent lack of information.The team worked through the results of the interviews and analyzed the quality of current services. They also collected additional necessary information about services for students and what solutions they have available to them.

Not just an information provider

They decided to collect information onto a website that was connected to the University, that is on the student web since it concerns students rights. Rights-Ronja is now an information bank at the url student.is/ronja. This part of the web will be useful for both future and current students. It also helps improve transparency in the administrative system and improves the rights and services of disabled people. Rights-Ronja is not just an information provider but also provides pressure to improve services and access to it at every university in Iceland. The web also allows students to compare services of universities and therefore make a more informative decision when choosing where they want to study.

The main goal of the project is to expand the current website so that it can be useful for all Icelandic university students. Just like when Rights-Ronja was originally created an analysis of needs within the universities will have to be made and improvement of the web would be based on the results of that analysis. Disabled students and those with learning disabilities in other universities but UI would gain a lot from the website of Rights-Ronja, as information about rights  regarding their university would be more accessible.

The team is now made up by four employees with different knowledge and backgrounds. It consists of Sigvaldi Sigurðarson, with a BS. degree in Psychology from UI, who worked on the original Rights-Ronja, Daníel G. Daníelsson, a 3rd year BA student in history at UI, Anna Margrét Björnsdóttir, a MA student in computer science at UI and Magnús Jóel Jónsson, an undergraduate political science student at UI.

Journalist: Ingvar Þór Björnsson
Translation: Guðný Ósk Laxdal

Article first published in 4th issue, vol 92. of Stúdentablaðið.



Vefsvæði sem gagnast fötluðum nemendum og nemendum með sértæka námsörðugleika

Starfsteymi Réttinda-Ronju.

Starfsteymi Réttinda-Ronju.

Háskóla Íslands er skylt samkvæmt lögum að tryggja að upplýsingar um þjónustu fyrir fatlaða nemendur séu aðgengilegar og auðfundnar. Þó er ýmislegt ábótavant í þeim efnum og erfitt getur reynst að finna upplýsingar um úrræði sem eru í boði fyrir nemendur með sértæka námsörðugleika. Starfsteymi Réttinda Ronju vill stórbæta aðgengi að upplýsingum fyrir þá háskólanema sem búa við fötlun eða skerðingu í námi. Svo það sé hægt, safnar starfsteymið og kemur fyrir á einum stað upplýsingum, sem hjálpa þeim nemendum að kynna sér réttindi sín og möguleg úrræði í námi.

Hugmyndin að verkefninu varð til í jafnréttisnefnd SHÍ fyrir tveimur árum. Þá leitaði til nefndarinnar nemandi með hreyfihömlun sem hafði ekki fengið þá þjónustu sem hann hafði þörf á og vissi ekki hvaða réttindi hann hafði til þess að krefjast hennar. Vorið 2015 sáu Rakel Rós Auðardóttir Snæbjörnsdóttir og Sigvaldi Sigurðarson, sem sátu í jafnréttisnefnd það árið, auglýst eftir umsóknum um styrk hjá Nýsköpunarsjóði námsmanna hjá Rannís og sáu gott tækifæri til að rannsaka aðgengi fatlaðra nemenda. Þau fengu til liðs við sig Eirík Smith, doktorsnema við rannsóknarsetrið í fötlunarfræðum og var hann umsjónarmaður verkefnisins. Þau fengu styrkinn og tóku til starfa sumarið 2015.

Aðgengi að upplýsingum þótti slæmt

Tekin voru rýnihópaviðtöl við nemendur sem þurfa að nota sérstaka þjónustu innan HÍ og fengu að heyra af reynslu þeirra, upplifunum og hugmyndum um þjónustuna. Í rýnihópnum voru 17 viðmælendur og voru niðurstöðurnar nýttar í alla ákvarðanatöku. Allir viðmælendur voru sammála um að upplýsingar um úrræði í námi mættu vera sýnilegri. Yfir helmingi þátttakenda þótti aðgengi að upplýsingum um þjónustu og réttindi slæmt.

Örfáum fannst nshi.is, heimasíða náms- og starfsráðgjafar, gagnast sér vel og allir töldu að þeir myndu nýta sér vefsvæði Réttinda-Ronju. Þegar staða þessara mála var skoðuð var ljóst að úrræðin voru ekki nægilega einstaklingsmiðuð og áberandi skortur var á upplýsingum. Teymið vann úr niðurstöðum viðtalanna og greindi gæði þjónustunnar. Jafnframt söfnuðu þau öðrum nauðsynlegum upplýsingum um þjónustu við nemendur og þeim úrræðum sem stæði þeim til boða.

Ekki aðeins upplýsingaveita

Þau ákváðu að safna upplýsingunum saman á vef tengdum Háskólanum, það er vef stúdenta þar sem um er að ræða réttindamál þeirra. Réttinda-Ronja er núna upplýsingabanki inn á slóðinni student.is/ronja. Þessi hluti vefsins mun nýtast framtíðar nemendum sem og þeim nemendum sem nema núna við Háskóla Íslands. Hann stuðlar einnig að gagnsæi í stjórnkerfinu sem og auknum réttindum og þjónustu við fatlað fólk. Réttinda-Ronja er ekki aðeins upplýsingaveita heldur einnig þrýstiafl á bætta þjónustu og aðgengi að henni innan allra háskóla á Íslandi. Vefurinn gerir nemendum sömuleiðis kleift að bera saman þjónustu háskólanna með þeim upplýsingum sem þar koma fram og þar með tekið upplýstari ákvörðun um val á háskóla.

Aðalmarkmið verkefnisins sem stendur er að útvíkka núverandi vef svo hann geti nýst öllum íslenskum háskólanemum. Líkt og þegar Réttinda-Ronja var upprunalega gerð mun fara fram þarfagreining innan hinna háskólanna og viðbætur síðunnar byggðar á niðurstöðum greiningarinnar. Fatlaðir nemendur og nemendur með sértækar námsþarfir í öðrum háskólum en Háskóla Íslands myndu njóta mikils ávinnings af vef Réttinda-Ronju þar sem upplýsingaflæði um rétt þeirra til þjónustu innan þeirra háskóla myndi aukast gífurlega.

Starfsteymið samanstendur nú af fjórum starfsmönnum með ólíka sérþekkingu og bakgrunn. Í teyminu eru Sigvaldi Sigurðarson, með BS. gráðu í sálfræði við HÍ en hann vann að upprunalegu Réttinda-Ronju, Daníel G. Daníelsson, 3. árs BA-nemi í sagnfræði við HÍ, Anna Margrét Björnsdóttir, meistaranemi í tölvunarfræði við HÍ og Magnús Jóel Jónsson, stjórnmálafræðinemi á grunnstigi í HÍ.

Blaðamaður: Ingvar Þór Björnsson
Grein birtist fyrst í 4. tbl. 92. árg. Stúdentablaðsins.