Graduation of the GRÓ GEST fellows of 2022

20 May 2022
Graduation of the GRÓ GEST fellows of 2022

Returning to its customary spring schedule, GRÓ GEST celebrated the graduation of the 14th GEST cohort. This year´s GEST graduates represent 15 different countries including Bosnia & Herzegovina, Egypt, Ghana, India, Kenya, Kosovo, Malawi, Moldova, Namibia, Pakistan, Palestine, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The group includes researchers, activists, artists, government officials, and master’s students with a shared interest and dedication to enhancing gender equality.

The 2022 cohort arrived in Iceland in January, setting the stage for the dynamic experience of Iceland´s unique transition from dark, stormy winter to a bright, placid summer. 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. Many international and Icelandic scholars have contributed to the programme.

It is the 14th graduation of GEST, but also the third graduation of GEST as a part of GRÓ Centre for Capacity Development, Sustainability and Societal Change. The 23 fellows now join the previously graduated 172 fellows, in an expanding GEST alumni network.

Graduation ceremony
The graduation ceremony took place in the Aula in the main building of the University of Iceland on Friday 20 May. The event was attended by Martin Eyjólfsson, Permanent Secretary of State of Iceland, 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, as well as GEST fellows, supervisors, staff, and other 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. Musicians Áshildur Haraldsdóttir and Helga Bryndís Magnúsdóttir contributed to the ceremony by playing classical music pieces on the flute and piano.

Fellow Diana Motsi from Zimbabwe shared her powerful poem titled “Revolutionary”, echoing the sentiments of sisterhood in the lines “I am a revolutionary, you are a revolutionary.” The fellows’ address was delivered by Maame Adwoa Amoa-Marfo from Ghana, in which she framed her experience in terms of magic. She concludes:

“Most crucially for me, there was the magic of human connection. Quiet conversations, uninhibited laughter, warm hugs and shared tears. The reassurance of the knowledge that the highs and the lows of this experience were shared. The past four months have been a simultaneous exercise in stretching and rooting. They have been exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. We have broadened our perspectives, seen growth on a personal level and come to clearer understandings of who we are, what matters to us and how we want to define our place in the world.”

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

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 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 the category of applied projects and project proposals, Nicole Wasuna was awarded for her assignment “Counting Dead Women: Towards a Femicide Observatory in Kenya”. The project addresses existing gaps in the literature and in country-specific policy responses on femicide. It formulates and provides specialized and targeted training to the police, the media, and the judiciary on femicide cases in a way that respects the dignity and honour of the deceased and their loved ones. It transforms the way of institutional operations at the national level, and in so doing lays the foundation for a future free of violence for women in Kenya.

In the category of research and research proposals, Sandani N. Yapa Abeywardena was awarded for her assignment
“The Legal and Judicial Construction of Gender in Sexual Crimes in Sri Lanka”. The study interrogates the supposed core values of equality and impartiality in the Sri Lankan justice system in how it deals with sexual crimes. By examining judgements delivered by the Superior Courts on the offences of rape, grave sexual abuse, and sexual harassment, in cases between 2020 and 2021, the study analyses and ultimately reveals how judges construct gender in the interpretation of the laws on gender-based violence, and the laws of evidence on victim-credibility.

The GRÓ GEST team congratulates the fellows and thanks its partners
The GEST team congratulates the 2022 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 for their support and facilitation.

Photos from the graduation ceremony can be found here.