SI Nordic Days – Using it without Losing it

A blog by Hafdis Karlsdottir, SI Iceland, Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, SI President and Marlène van Benthem, SI the Netherlands.

“This year the Nordic Days were held in the beautiful Icelandic town of Akureyri on 22-23 June, with the theme ‘Our Environment and Energy – Using it without Losing it’.

Linking Energy, Water and Sustainable Development, a subject, closely connected to the SI President’s Appeal 2017-2019, presenters included SI President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen and the SIE President Renata Trottmann Probst.  The SI President discussed the President’s Appeal ‘Water, Women & Leadership’ and the SIE President presented on the SIE biennium theme ‘We stand up for Women’. Over 180 Soroptimists from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Switzerland, joined together with forty partners, at a Friendship Evening on Friday 22 June at the Aviation Museum in Akureyri. After the monologue ‘Gulli the Pioneer’ performed by Soroptimist actress Catherine Westling, we had a wonderful reception with great food served by Soroptimisters from Akureyri.

Photo: Attendees at Nordic Days

On Saturday we were registered at HOF Cultural and Conference Center and were welcomed with the traditional candle ceremony. Nine interesting speakers explained and discussed the theme from their own perspectives. Guðmundur Sigurdsson, General Manager at Cleantec is involved in energy solutions for big city problems and is making the town of Akureyri clean and sustainable by  ‘plugging into a volcano’ as an energy source. Birgitta Stefánsdóttir, advisor to the Environment Agency in Iceland informed us that if we continue our lifestyles we would need 4.2 planets in order to sustain our current level of consumption! An example given was textile waste, as this is the 4th biggest polluter in a single consumer’s life.

Photo: Birgitta Stefánsdóttir discussing consumption

University Professor in Energy and Environmental Studies, Brynhildur Davíðsdóttir stated that access to high quality energy is a women’s rights issue. She showed us that investing in renewable energy is the solution, but it is not increasing fast enough. And, after Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, which aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, sustainable energy development is also a prerequisite for reaching the other 16 SDGs.

Rakel Gudmundsdóttir, a young active environmentalist, gave a presentation and concluded that it all comes back to Eldridge Cleaver’s “You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem”. Before lunch, we were graced with the Icelandic Queen of ‘Zumba dance’, who came to revitalise us and danced us into the lunchroom!

Photo: Rakel Gudmundsdóttir

In the afternoon, we listened to  Auður Nanna Baldvinsdóttir, founder of Women and Energy, a foundation with the objective of empowering women in the energy sector, to strengthen the connection between them and to encourage women to seek education relating to energy. Audur prepared a report in cooperation with Ernst & Young on the influence women have in the power and utility sector. It showed that there is a relationship between the diversity of Boards and the return on Equity. There were very strong parallels to be found with the objectives of the SI President’s Appeal ‘Women, Water & Leadership’, as the water sector faces similar challenges in promoting and supporting women to take up decision-making positions.

Fida Abu Libdeh has a master’s degree in Business Administration and a bachelor’s degree in Energy and Environmental Engineering. Originally from Palestine, she fought her way to the top in Iceland and her life motto is “from waste to value using natural resources”. Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back. So be the best version of yourself.

Photo: Four of the presenters, Guðrún Bergmann, Auður Nanna Baldvinsdóttir, Brynhildur Davíðsdóttir and Fida Abu Libdeh

To close, Guðrún Bergmann, a health coach, made us aware of the importance of how the environment affects our health. You are what you eat and that includes what has been eaten by the animals you eat and the fertilizers used in your vegetables. She wrapped up the theme of the Nordic Days.

The gala dinner had super food, lovely music and we all danced until the early hours”.

Lead image: Presidents of the Nordic Unions: from left to right Minna Lahti, IPP Union of Finland, a Swedish Soroptimist, Kärstin Jacobsson, President Union of Sweden, Laufey G. Baldursdóttir, President Union of Iceland

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