Not being queer will be a challenge

Helga Baldvins Bjargardóttir is the newly hired director of Samtökin ’78 and will take office in January. Helga has a law degree with specialisation in human rights. She also holds a BA in social pedagogy and for the past two years she’s been a consultant at Stígamót – Education and Counseling Center for Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Violence, specialising in the issues of disabled victims. Helga has also vast experience of human rights consultancy in the public sector, within the Ministries of Welfare and the Interior and for a number of municipalities. GayIceland was curious to know more about the new director and hear about her vision and ideas for the organization.

Helga Baldvins Bjargardóttir is the newly hired director of Samtökin ’78 and will take office in January.
Helga Baldvins Bjargardóttir is the newly hired director of Samtökin ’78 and will take office in January.

Congratulations on the new job,  how do you feel about it? “I‘m incredibly excited and honored to get the chance to work with such a great human rights group although I know it‘s not been the easiest time for the organization, with all the unrest that‘s been going on lately. I‘m not a member, I‘m not queer but I’m incredibly grateful for having been given this chance and hope that my education and experience will prove useful.”

Why did you apply? “Honestly, I wasn‘t going to at first, I was considering another job. But then my friend suggested this position and at first I told her I couldn‘t become the director of an organization I wasn‘t a member of. But she in return asked me whether that might not be an advantage so I thought about it and decided to apply and then leave the choice up to the board; it would be their decision whether they wanted me and my human rights knowledge and experience. Or someone else who would also be a member of the organization – and I would have understood that completely.”

Do you have any experience of campaigning for queer rights and issues? “Not directly. I‘m very interested in marginalization of minority groups and how we define them and I have somewhat specialized in the issues of disabled people. But once you‘ve studied one subordinate group in society, how prejudice affects the way they’re treated by others and the system and so on, then you can easily transfer that to other subordinate and marginalized groups.”

“I‘m incredibly excited and honored to get the chance to work with such a great human rights group although I know it‘s not been the easiest time for the organization, with all the unrest that‘s been going on lately.”

Have you had a similar job before? I‘m used to working for rights, I‘ve educated people about human rights and prejudice and contributed to changing laws to ensure human rights – both of my law theses had a practical angle so they could be utilized by the ministries to improve the rights of disabled people. But I haven’t had a job as a director before, no.”

Have you always been this interested in human rights? “I think it might just be a character trait. My sister says I’ve been like this since school, where I refused to attend birthday parties unless the whole class was invited. I’m of course a feminist and have been fighting against prejudice and degrading attitudes towards women since I was 17; I was a member of Bríet, the feminist association for young women, and one of the editors of Vera, a feminist rights magazine, and have been an activist in fighting against rape culture and other kinds of violence in society. I was just brought up to these values that you should show everyone respect and that it’s not all right to exclude some people or treat people badly. My grandmother was a passionate fighter for animal rights so maybe I inherited some of her spirit.”

Helgar with her daughter, Elinborg Jóhanns. She also has a son, Björgvin Arnar and is married to Björn Önundur Arnarsson (in the car next to her on main photo).
Helga with her daughter, Elinborg Jóhanns. She also has a son, Björgvin Arnar and is married to Björn Önundur Arnarsson (in the car next to her on main photo).

Do you have passion for queer rights and issues or do you connect with them personally? “I’ve just followed the discussion of suppression and marginalization and watched the queer rights campaign. I’ve participated in Reykjavík Pride and so on and one of the things I’ve admired about Samtökin ’78 is how they fight for their rights, such as working in co-operation with the Church of Iceland when they pursued civil partnership and same-sex marriage. And I also find it commendable that they’re so in touch with the grass root work but at the same time, have a very clear vision of its ethos. That’s not a given in all such organizations.”

You’re not queer yourself, aren’t you afraid of being criticized for that by members of the organization, e.g. for not being able to put yourself in their shoes? “I’m not afraid of that, I fully expect that and actually think that people should question that. As I say, it can be a pro and a con. It’s a pro that the director, who’s essentially an employee of the board, can be completely independent and do their job without their own personal stance getting in the way. But I’m definitely wary of not being able to put myself in the shoes of queer people and that’s going to be my challenge, to be on my toes and try to understand all the different issues. Samtökin ’78 is of course an umbrella organization for many diverse groups but I think that my experience of working for the rights of disabled people and for victims of violence gives me a deep insight into the basis. And the basis of discrimination and prejudice is of course that we decide that people who are in any way different, are worth less and we allow ourselves to treat them differently than we would a white, middle-aged, no disabled, heterosexual man.”

“My biggest challenge will probably be persuading people that I can handle this job without being queer.”

There’s been a lot of conflict and unrest lately within Samtökin, does that not intimated you? To some extent, yes, but at the same time it’s a compelling challenge and an opportunity to work towards solidarity and union again.”

As director, will you follow the lines laid by the board or will you bring something new to the organization? “I see my role first and foremost as channelling the board’s ideas and aims. I’m intrigued by this notion of multidimensional discrimination, that we are aware that there’s not just one group of queer people but e.g. queer disabled people and queer refugees and so on. I think that one of the more exciting aspects of the organization is that they can bring various groups together and I have my own ideas, opinions and experience that I’ll definitely use to propel the rights campaign of all these people.”

My sister says I’ve been like this since school, where I refused to attend birthday parties unless the whole class was invited, says Helga when asked if she’s always been interested in human rights.
My sister says I’ve been like this since school, where I refused to attend birthday parties unless the whole class was invited, says Helga when asked if she’s always been interested in human rights.

What’s the first thing you’ll be doing when you start the new job? “Well, the schedule for the first three months is pretty hectic, with the annual meeting coming up amongst other things. So I’ll be quite busy with that, on top of settling in and learning the ropes.”

What do you think are the biggest challenges that Samtökin ’78 are facing now? “My biggest challenge will probably be persuading people that I can handle this job without being queer. But after having gone through the financial statements of the organization, I’ve found that the budget they receive is an absolute disgrace, considering the work they do. They do a lot of counseling and work on many information campaigns within society and this is a human rights organization and they should simply be well supported by the state; they’re the civil society of society. Then of course, there’s a lot of work ahead to rebuild trust and union amongst members; I think it’s a good sign that these conflicts haven’t dissolved the organization and there are so many amazing people there that I don’t think it’s going to be a problem, but it’s going to be an effort.”

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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        Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.