Graduation of the GRÓ GEST Fellows 2024

25 May 2024
Graduation of the GRÓ GEST Fellows 2024

GRÓ GEST celebrates the graduation of its 16th cohort of young gender equality professionals. This year the graduates represent professionals from 14 different countries: Uganda, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Palestine, India, Malawi, Sri Lanka, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Nepal, Pakistan, and for the first time there are fellows from Rwanda, Madagascar and Liberia. The cohort is made up of passionate gender equality practitioners from a multitude of diverse backgrounds within government, activism, media, art, academia and more.

The 2024 cohort arrived in Iceland in January and have worked diligently through five months of academic and cultural challenges, now finally arriving at graduation in the bright Icelandic Spring. Throughout the semester, the fellows have completed six interdisciplinary modules: Theories and Concepts in Gender Studies; Project Development Tools; Gender, Violence and Security; Gender, Labour and Migration; Gender, Environment and Climate Change; and the Final Assignment. Many international and Icelandic scholars have contributed to the programme.

It is the 16th graduation of GEST, and the fifth graduation of GEST as a part of GRÓ Centre for Capacity Development, Sustainability and Societal Change. With this year’s cohort of 23 graduating fellows, the total number of GEST alumni is now 241, adding to an ever-expanding alumni network. This year, five cohort members are recipients of joint Erasmus+ and GRÓ GEST fellowships and 18 received full GRÓ GEST fellowships.

Graduation ceremony
The graduation ceremony took place at the University of Iceland on Friday 24 May and was attended by GEST fellows, supervisors, staff, and distinguished guests. Dr. Irma Erlingsdóttir, Director of GRÓ GEST formally opened the ceremony and delivered the welcome address, followed by Dr. Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland, and Martin Eyjólfsson, Permanent Secretary of State of Iceland. Operations Manager Guðrún Eysteinsdóttir, Ólöf Garðarsdóttir, the Dean of the School of Humanities, Védís Ólafsdóttir, Project Manager and Nína Björk, Director General of GRÓ Centre distributed the diplomas and trophies from the University of Iceland and the GRÓ Centre.

The fellows’ address was delivered by Elizabeth Achola Mangeni from Kenya, in which she recounted some of the many joys and challenges of participating in the GEST programme. She also emphasized the symbiosis of the social and communal experience that is the GEST programme, and how it influences fellows’ long-term ability to affect change. She said: “As we recall the friendships we have forged, the networks created, the mentors who guided us in our research and projects, and the countless lovely memories we shared, let us remember that these experiences have contributed to our growth as students and individuals one step closer, ready and equipped to contribute to making the world a better place for all.”

At the ceremony, GEST fellow Enas Dajani from Palestine performed the poem The ID Card by Mahmoud Darwish, and fellow Hameeda Syed from India performed original spoken word piece Þetta reddast. Musicians Guðjón Steinn Skúlason on saxophone and Alexander Fryderyk Grybos on guitar played the pieces Ugetsu by Cedar Walton, and The Surrey With The Fringe on Top by Richard Rogers at the beginning and end of the ceremony respectively.

The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Award
The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir award was presented for the best final assignments in two distinct categories by GEST academic coordinator Dr. Thomas Brorsen Smidt and GEST research specialist Dr. Giti Chandra. 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 research 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.

To be considered for the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir award, it applies that the work must address gender issues that are of concern in the author’s home country. It must show evidence of sophisticated gender analysis with appropriate academic references, and it shall be well-structured and written. The fellows produced several final assignments that all demonstrated critical thinking, creativity, and excellence. In fact, no less than 13 final assignments received a grade of 9 or higher.

In the category of applied projects, Mihitha Basnayake’s project Towards Zero Period Poverty was chosen for the Award. The project will establish a low-cost, biodegradable sanitary napkin production facility in Sri Lanka, which will make sanitary napkins more accessible, affordable and environmentally sustainable, alongside awareness campaigns to educate local communities about menstrual health and hygiene and challenge existing stigmas and myths. It is a project that will create job opportunities, reduce environmental impact, and empower women through increased knowledge and community support.

In the category of research and research proposals, Ramatu Issah’s project Intersecting Forces: Religion, Culture, and Gender Dynamics in Child Marriage Amongst the Fulanis in Juapong, Ghana was chosen. Through in-depth interviews, the assignment gives voice to marginalized girls, who face oppression through cultural and religious practices and institutions. The research provides realistic and practical recommendations, which can change the lives of women and girls. Ramatu is one of the five joint Erasmus+/GRÓ GEST fellows in this year‘s cohort.

The GRÓ GEST team congratulates the fellows and thanks its partners
The GEST team congratulates the 2024 fellows and wishes them safe travels home. The GEST team is thankful to the fellows for their persistence and positivity towards travelling long distances to Iceland, 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, the University of Iceland and the GRÓ Centre for a fruitful collaboration. Furthermore, the GEST team thanks the Student Services and the International Office of the University of Iceland/Erasmus+ for their support and facilitation.