Moving country is not easy, even less so when you cannot speak the local language.

Women moving to Iceland arrive with language knowledge ranging from not even knowing the basics, to having a reasonable grasp.


Not being able to speak the national language is an obstacle. It makes it hard for women to access basic social rights and understand their obligations to the Icelandic administrative system. Finding a job, being independent and autonomous, not to mention integrating into society, all become hurdles which are sometimes never overcome.


Language is a bridge to integration!


Aware of this major issue for women and the difficulty of learning Icelandic, the Soroptimists of Reykjavík took action!


Empowering women of foreign origin in their studies to become licensed nurses


The club worked in collaboration with the Breidholt Community College in Reykjavik where a group of foreign women were studying at night school to become licenced nurses. However, the college identified a problem. They realised that the women did not take advantage of the study assistance offered.



Through this project the club tackled the obstacles that women of foreign origin with limited knowledge of Icelandic face. They offered online study assistance, with an emphasis on custom made support with the Icelandic language, especially with specific terminology, which they found particularly difficult. Flexible, one-on-one assistance enabled the women to continue to carry out their work at home and hold a conversation with a teacher at a time that suited them.


An impressive sixty-one women benefited from this project. They found the assistance positive, reporting that it increased their learning capabilities and they felt secure in knowing that they could always contact a teacher when needed.


“This year in May, I completed successfully my studies as a practical nurse at Breidholt Community College. It was very difficult to start the school because my Icelandic was not good. I received a lot of help from the school and from the teacher who was always patient, friendly and available at any time.”


– Trainee nurse who took part in this project


The benefits did not stop there. Study assistance not only benefited the women themselves, but also Icelandic society, which has a constant shortage of licensed practical nurses.



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Bintou Koïta, SIE HQ Senior Programme Officer

for SIE Programme Team 2021-2023