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Ups and Downs of Being a Woman in Faroese Politics

Being the only woman in parliament isn’t always easy. This article is about Karin Kjølbros, who shared her story at a Nordic seminar on politics and gender equality in Torshavn.

Karin Kjølbro. Photo: private
 Karin Kjølbro. Photo: private

Karin Kjølbro is a former Member of Parliament and women’s movement activist in the Faroe Islands. In 1978, she and a colleague became the first two female politicians in the Faroese Parliament. Life could be quite complicated in a political environment dominated by men.

‘In 1988, we voted on whether sexual orientation should be covered by the national discrimination act. Thirty-one out of the 32 members voted no, and I, the only woman in the group, stood up and shouted yes. My male party colleagues tried to pull me down, but I stood up again.’

When interviewed by Drude Dahlerup for a book about female politicians in the Nordic region, she described her political life as full of ups and downs – or ‘blomster og spark’ in Danish. This also became the title of the book, which was published in 1985.

Kjølbro says that as a women’s activist, she gained strength from what she saw was happening in the other Nordic countries.

‘175 Faroese women travelled by ship to the Nordic Forum in Oslo 1988. In Oslo, we became inspired to create for example women’s lists. We were also inspired by Vigdís Finnbogadóttir becoming President of Iceland. Although we didn’t have television in the Faroe Islands, we managed to follow the developments in the other Nordic countries, and what happened there made us stronger.’

Kjølbro participated in a conference on gender equality that was arranged by the Icelandic Presidency at the Nordic House in Torshavn 27-28 May.

Updated 26 September 2020