GEST Fellows Visited the President of Iceland

19 March 2024
GEST Fellows Visited the President of Iceland

The GEST fellows were invited to visit the President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, and the First Lady, Eliza Reid, at the president’s official residence, Bessastaðir, on the 18th of March. The fellows received a warm welcome, during which the President and the First Lady highlighted the importance of cross-cultural learning and expressed a genuine interest in hearing about the fellows’ work to advance gender equality.

Three fellows presented a thematic overview of the final assignments of this year’s cohort on behalf of the group, emphasizing how their projects further social justice and safety for all genders and marginalized groups.

Benjamin Wilson Blay from Ghana represented the fellows whose work focuses on cross-cutting themes on sustainable universal health access, specifically regarding sexual reproductive health rights for women and girls, while engaging men and boys in the pursuit of equality and strengthening local community-based organizations. He furthermore stated that as diverse as the fellows are, the passion to transform their respective communities, countries, and citizens unites them. He concluded by saying that “as a cohort, we believe in solidarity, equality, and humanity. Let it be known to the world and all today that no one is truly free when another is in bondage. We stand with and for Palestine”.

Linus Odhiambo Ouma from Kenya echoed this sentiment, stating that in recent times we have witnessed the tragic consequences of exclusion and discrimination against those who look, speak, identify, or pray differently. Historically, women have borne the brunt of these injustices, and today, LGBTQIA+ folks face similar challenges. He emphasized that we cannot achieve true development while half of our population is marginalized and denied opportunities.

Tawonga Kwangu Msowoya’s group focused on education. In her speech, she attempted to set the scene to describe the reality of the educational system as seen and experienced by the GEST fellows. She concluded by saying that “in this transnational space, we come together as academics, practitioners, and learners eager to impact education within and beyond the classroom.”

After the speeches, Sarmad Muhammad Soomar from Pakistan gave the President and the First Lady a gift on behalf of the cohort of fellows, and Mihitha Basnayake from Sri Lanka presented them with a mask from Sri Lanka.

Afterward, the fellows were invited to have coffee, tea, and small refreshments, during which they also had the opportunity to converse with the President and the First Lady.

Mihitha Basnayake from Sri Lanka with the President and the First Lady
The President and the First Lady with the cohort of GEST fellows
The speakers from left: Benjamin Wilson Blay, Linus Odhiambo Ouma and Tawonga Kwangu Msowoya with Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, the President of Iceland