Congratulations to the GRÓ GEST class of 2021!

10 December 2021
Congratulations to the GRÓ GEST class of 2021!

GRÓ GEST celebrated the graduation of 20 fellows, who were awarded a postgraduate diploma in international gender studies from the University of Iceland. The fellows come from 15 countries: China, Egypt, Kenya, India, Iraq (Kurdistan), Malawi, Mexico, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Palestine (West Bank), Russia (Arctic), Sri Lanka and Uganda. The group consists of experts working in governments, academia, research, civil societies, and non-governmental organisations.

The 2021 cohort arrived in Iceland early August, after their programme had been postponed from January 2021 due to the pandemic.Throughout the semester, the fellows have completed six interdisciplinary modules: Gender Theories and Concepts; Gender and Development; Gender, Violence and Security; Gender, Labour and Migration; Gender, Environment and Climate Change; and the Final Assignment. Number of international and Icelandic scholars have contributed to the programme. 

It is the 13th graduation of GEST and second graduation of GEST as a GRÓ Centre for Capacity Development, Sustainability and Societal Change. The 20 fellows now join the previously graduated 152 GEST fellows, in an expanding GEST alumni network. 

Graduation ceremony
The graduation ceremony took place at Veröld, the House of Vigdís, at the University of Iceland. The event was attended by Ms. Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Cooperation; Dr. Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland; Ólöf Garðarsdóttir, Dean of the School of Humanities, Nína Björk Jónsdóttir, Director General of GRÓ Centre, Jón Karl Ólafsson, Chair of GRÓ Board as well as GEST fellows, supervisors, staff, and other guests.

Dr. Irma Erlingsdóttir, Director of GRÓ GEST, opened the graduation ceremony following a musical performance by A Band Called Eva. Ms. Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Dr. Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland shared their remarks, congratulating the 2021 fellows. A newly graduated fellow Bernah Namatovu addressed the guests and shared her reflections on the programme.

The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Award
The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir award, was presented for the best final assignment. Unfortunately, Ms. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the matron of the programme, was not available to attend the ceremony but sent her best wishes to the newly graduates. Randi W. Stebbins, the coordinator of the module for the final assignment, presented the awards.

The award was presented in two distinct categories. The first category is for applied projects or project documents, in which the fellow addresses and provides practical recommendations for an issue in relation to gender equality in their home country. The second category is for essays or research proposals, which aim at contributing to the existing academic literature on a particular topic relating to gender equality or outlining a proposal for a future PhD project.

For all final assignments, in order to be considered for the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir award, it applies that the work has to address gender issues that are of concern in the fellow’s home country. It must show evidence of sophisticated gender analysis with appropriate academic references, and it shall be well-structured and written. This year’s fellows produced a number of truly outstanding final assignments with over a third earning a grade of nine or higher. In the end, all the 2021 GEST fellows have demonstrated critical thinking, creativity, and excellence.

In the category of applied projects and project proposals, Pamela Chavarría Machado with an assignment titled Community response to intimate partner violence (IPV) in Mexico City received the award. Pamela succeeded in mapping out a project that puts victims of intimate partner violence and their needs at the center of a community response program. Including a nuanced legal analysis, the project takes into account the current pandemic and the shifting landscape of violence that has come with it. Instead of of sticking with older models, the project builds on cutting edge work to introduce a comprehensive overhaul of Mexico City’s response intimate partner violence by supporting victims while addressing both the roots and causes of violence. The proposed project’s survivor-centered approach brings together intersectionality, feminist legal theory and education to better address this pressing issue.

In the category of essays and research proposals, Daria Burnasheva, with an assignment titled Indigenous women as water protectors, men as firefighters? Gender and indigeneity in the context of climate change in Sakha (Yakutia) received the award. Daria put forward a nuanced analysis on gender, indigeneity and climate change. Her essay addresses a critical gap in research on how gender and climate change intersect by addressing on the experiences of indigenous women “in the margins of the Global North.” Situated in the aftermath of devastating wildfires in Yakutia in 2021, the work proposes a paradigm shift based on indigenous feminism that looks to feminize “wildfire narratives” to better protect human and other-than-human dwellers of this world.

The GRÓ GEST team congratulates the fellows and thanks its partners
The GEST team congratulates the 2021 fellows and wishes them safe travels home. The GEST team is thankful to the fellows for their persistence and positivity towards travelling to Iceland during a pandemic, and for participating actively in the programme, sharing their knowledge and expertise among their fellows and teachers. The GEST team would also like to thank its main partners University of Iceland and the GRÓ Centre for a fruitful collaboration. Furthermore, the GEST team thanks the Icelandic MFA department of Arctic Affairs for its collaboration, as well as Félagsstofnun Stúdenta and the International Office of University of Iceland for their support and facilitation.

A record from the event can be found here via panopto