Women of the Arctic is now a nonprofit focused on gender issues

The creators of a new nonprofit focused on gender in the Arctic say that women’s issues affect the entire community — and should be taken more seriously.

Arctic experts have spoken about the need to address women’s issues at the Arctic Circle Assembly and elsewhere. (Melody Schreiber)

By Melody Schreiber
Arctic Today

A new organization devoted to bringing more focus to gender issues in the Arctic has taken a step closer to securing its future.

Last month, researchers Tahnee Prior and Gosia Smieszek announced that the organization, Women of the Arctic, was officially registered as a nonprofit organization.

Soon after, they began rolling out a video series of more than 100 interviews with women from across the region: women in science, tech, engineering and math; women in policymaking, business and law; women in the arts and exploration.

Although the idea of focusing on women’s issues began germinating between the two Arctic researchers when they first met years ago, it began gathering momentum in September 2018 when Prior and Smieszek organized an event focused on women at the University of the Arctic Congress in Helsinki.

They brought together women from all across the Arctic, “which is key in all of this,” Prior said at Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik a few months later.

At that Arctic Circle panel, Prior called for an Arctic Women’s Summit to address the many issues facing women that many discussions of Arctic issues often overlook: maternal and reproductive health, gender-based violence, pay gaps, human trafficking, education, caregiving, and much more.

“You don’t hear these things at Arctic Frontiers or Arctic Circle or any of these conferences. It’s all shipping and geopolitics,” Prior told Arctic Today. Yet women’s issues affect the entire community, she said.

“These communities are so small that if you leave anybody behind, it has a huge impact on everybody else,” she said. “So they’re actually community issues.”

For instance, most of the women, from Alaska to Russia, who spoke with Prior and Smieszek said that their boys’ futures are one of their biggest concerns.

“A lot of the men have lost—partly because of climate change, partly because of colonization—a lot of their original, traditional roles, and have been given no support to figure out what alternatives are out there,” Prior explained.

Gender inequity and the subsequent problems it brings happen everywhere, she said. “But in the remote North, it’s more pronounced, especially given climate change and given the shortage of food and housing.”

While some Arctic countries have done better overall in addressing women’s issues, Prior said, “that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have it all figured out.”

“You still see high levels of intimate partner violence in northern Finland, northern Norway, and northern Sweden. There’s still a pay gap in Iceland, and there’s only one women’s shelter there—and it’s underfunded.”

The primary goal of the new Women of the Arctic nonprofit is to partner with other organizations to bring gender issues in the Arctic to the forefront of the conversation.

Prior and Smieszek are still planning a Women’s Arctic Summit, including putting together an advisory board. “Next year would be ideal,” Prior said.

But those unable to attend the emerging discussions around gender at international conferences may also follow the conversation online, at the Gender Is Not Plan B website—especially the scores of video interviews with circumpolar women—and on social media with the hashtag #WomenoftheArctic.

That way, Prior said, “people can make the connections themselves” on gender issues in the Arctic—no matter where they are.

This article originally appeared at Arctic Today and is republished with permission.

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by iWonder on

    It’s a curious thing how ‘gender issues’ effectively means ‘women’s issues’. It’s rare indeed to see issues facing men raised under the same rubric (granted, this article does make mention of that at one point). I wonder why that is?

  2. Posted by Piitaqanngi on

    Men’s issues are never discussed. In Nunavut, we have a government that seems to be hell-bent on hiring women. We see in a lot of the Government offices in Iqaluit and the decentralized communities more Inuit women than we do Inuit men. Most of the males working in those offices seem to be non-Inuit.
    The spouses of these favoured people just become house husbands. They are lost… no longer being the traditional bread-winner, doing household chores, and just sitting home. Their roles as hunters are not being fully practiced. They just tend to become the whining spouses in local radio. The roles have been completely reversed.

    • Posted by man of the house on

      According to GN reports only about 17% of GN jobs are filled by Inuit men. Go into almost any GN office and you will see young Inuit women and old white men.

      Maybe its time for a change in focus…

      • Posted by Now what? on

        Can you expand on what you mean by “change of focus”?

        • Posted by Inuit Men of the Arctic on

          Perhaps two men should start a new organization devoted to bringing more focus to gender issues in the Arctic.

          The organization, Inuit Men of the Arctic, could be officially registered as a nonprofit organization.

          It could produce a video series of interviews with men from across the region: unemployed men, homeless men, unemployed homeless men, as well as men in science, tech, engineering and math; men in policymaking (I think there are 2), business and law; men in the arts and exploration.

          It could investigate the GN hiring preference for young Inuit women and old white men.

          It could then start pressuring the GN to adopt an affirmative action program to correct this long standing discrimination.

          Point is, if you focus on something, that is what you are going to see.

          Why do you think drug companies sometimes conduct studies on a couple of hundred people and other times conduct studies on hundreds of thousands of people?

          When they have a real cure, studying a few hundred people is more than enough for proof. But even if you have nothing, if you look long enough and hard enough, you are guaranteed to find something.

      • Posted by Clarity on

        Inuit men need to stay in school and get an education in order to qualify for government jobs. The reason why women are ranking higher in obtaining in government jobs is because they stay in school

        • Posted by Reverse the Argument on

          “Women need to choose other programs in school and get a more relevant education in order to qualify for higher paying jobs. The reason why men are ranking higher in overall compensation is because they go to school for higher paying jobs.” – Try that argument with somebody trying to address the pay gap (see: Women of the Arctic) and tell me where it gets you.

          They might say you’re right, but that society is responsible for taking action. Yet it’s the Inuit men who are solely responsible for themselves? You can’t sit on both sides of the fence.

      • Posted by Gudbrandur on

        Women meet up at school, men don´t. Women get education, men don´t. Women meet up at work, men don´t.

        • Posted by #WOke Folk on

          This statement is so senseless. Evidence please.

  3. Posted by enough_already on

    This makes me sad and angry. 85% of the suicides in the Arctic are young men, the majority of school dropouts are young men, as Piitaqanngi has already pointed out, men don’t get jobs…but somehow we need more women’s initiatives? In the article they even frame men’s issues as women’s issues. Are men not worthy of help in their own right? Only worthy when they affect women? Give me a break.

    • Posted by Walking my Dogma on

      This is what western feminism looks like, and it can be very dogmatic. There are several key assumptions from which all this follows. And be warned, if you chose to challenge these you may end up viciously excoriated by the tribe, expunged and labelled a misogynist:

      1. Men are, by nature, the problem
      2. Men should be more like women
      If this happens, we will have less problems

  4. Posted by Oracle on

    Maybe if the men stayed sober and didn’t beat up their spouses, they would be more hireable.
    The community knows who the wife-beaters are.
    These men have bad attitudes towards women and would not want to work too closely with women in government or outside of it, in the private sector.
    When they become less violent, they may get hired.

    • Posted by jo on

      So all of our men are drunk wife beaters? Good thing you are not stereotyping

    • Posted by Rob M Adams on

      I’d like to say that your comment is pitiable, Oracle, but I’ll bite my tongue on that 🙂

      Many Inuit men are well-employed in Nunavut. Just look around the community and see who is employed in an excellent job – well paid, with good hours, benefits and perks. Look inside the maintenance shop at your local Housing Association building. Look at who sits on the hamlet Council, drives trucks and works in the maintenance shop, works for CGS and QEC, supervises at the rec centre, runs programs at the local halfway house and remand, works in territorial parks and conservation, sits on RIA boards, operates heavy equipment, …..

      Men choose their roles, women choose theirs. It’s hard to be available for office work if you are a building operator for Housing.

      Those thoughts aside, yep, there is too much suicide, addiction, alcoholism, abuse and despair. Look to locals in positions of influence and control for good insight into the root causes for that. Without fundamental and continuous learning, change will remain at an unacceptable pace and conditions will remain at an unbearable level.

    • Posted by Who’s to Blame on

      Oracle has just pointed out why there’s a need to have more initiatives for men and boys.

      In the South, when women choose jobs that are lower paying than men, it’s the fault of men and society. When women stay in abusive relationships, it’s the fault of men and society. When women don’t run for political office, it’s the fault of men and society.

      But both here and in the South, when men struggle with their own societal issues, it’s the fault of men.

      Maybe it’s time to realize that problems like domestic violence, and male underemployment here in Nunavut, are best addressed by fixing them before they become issues, and that’s done through outreach to young men and boys.

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