The 2020 GEST Cohort Meets the President of Iceland

14 May 2020
Photo by Kristinn Ingvarsson
Photo by Kristinn Ingvarsson

The GEST programme had the pleasure of hosting a visit from the President and the First Lady of Iceland, Mr. Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Ms. Eliza Reid, at the University of Iceland.

Two fellows, Kinita Shenoy, Indian national and resident in Sri Lanka, and Shamim Nampijja from Uganda, spoke on behalf of the fellows about their experience in Iceland. Shamim addressed the experience studying with a diverse group of individuals and said: “We have been able to learn from each other despite our different backgrounds and opinions, agreed and disagreed, and truly understood that there is no such thing as a single story”. Shamim also shared the challenges due to the COVID-19 and described how “renown professors and doctors fidgeted with technology during class sessions, looking at their busy screens and frighteningly busier background”, most not realising that the fellows were learning and adapting to a new environment with them.

Kinita highlighted the fact that although data shows that while COVID-19 affects men physically more than women, the effects of the disease is more severe among women, the poor and other marginalised communities around the world. Women are more likely to be responsible for unpaid domestic work that is now a full-time job at home, and evidence is being collected from all over about spikes in domestic violence. She also pointed out that the pandemic gives the opportunity to re-assess the ways in which societies are structured, to understand the mistakes that have been made, and to work towards more equitable futures. Kinita emphasized that this is a time “to recognize and address the crucial role that inequality plays – both gendered and economic”.

The meeting with the President and Ms. Eliza Reid was not untouched by COVID-19 either. Every year, the President welcomes fellows to Bessastaðir, but due to the current restrictions, the meeting took place at the university, where honouring the two-metre rule is easier.

This did not change the fact that the meeting was very successful, and the GEST fellows proved once more that they have impressive skills of adapting to an alternative environment. The fellows had the chance to chat with the President and Mrs. Eliza Reid before the meeting was concluded with a group photo.