National Equality and Diversity Awards solemnly presented at the Royal Palace

Categories: ProjectsPublished On: 2018 April, 9

On 22 March 2018, the National Equality and Diversity Awards were solemnly presented at the Royal Palace. The Commission and the people who voted on the Internet rated best those individuals, organizations and initiatives who worked in the area of human rights in 2017.

Equal Opportunities Controller Agneta Skardžiuvienė believes that the nominated people are the pride of Lithuania. “It is their work that makes our daily lives more democratic. And no, this democracy does not arise by itself: it requires a lot of work, courage, mental and financial resources, not to mention strong will, which the nominees definitely do not lack,” ascertained she.

People and their projects were ranked in eight categories:
The annual Breakthrough Award was presented to Erika Račkytė. She was one of the first to talk about sexual harassment. The actress turned to law enforcement, and the director who violated her rights was dismissed. By wearing black, the ceremony guests expressed their support for the #MeToo movement and the women who were victims of sexual harassment.

The Gender Equality Award was presented to the Network of Specialist Aid Centres. The specialists of these organizations provide legal and psychological assistance to victims of violence in the immediate environment. Last year, around 12,000 people received their help.

Henrika Varnienė, Director of the Lithuanian Forum of the Disabled, was presented with the Award for Overcoming Obstacles. She was awarded for her contribution to the discussion on the change of the employment system for people with disabilities, and the dialogue with the Ministry of Health regarding the poor quality of compensated means of medical treatment.

Vytautas Raskevičius, Human Rights Policy Coordinator of the LGBT Rights Association, received the Rainbow Award. The activist won the laureate for his consistent work in representing trans-gender individuals and in improving the practice of Lithuanian courts in changing identity documents.

The Open Society Citizen Award was presented to journalists from the Širvintos regional newspaper “Širvis”. Regardless of the hostility of local authorities, Andželika Bagočiūnienė, Janina Pukienė and Valda Patinskienė created and supported an independent information space by giving the floor to those who would otherwise have remained voiceless.

Gita Mickevičiūtė and her project “Senelių darželis” received the award “The Best Age is my Age”. This day care centre established in Alytus reduces the exclusion of hard-moving and thus isolated old people by involving them in social, creative and cognitive activities.

The Polish Dialogue Club was awarded with the National Dialogue Award. It is an independent organization of Poles living in Lithuania, organizing public discussions and fostering a politically independent dialogue between the Poles and Lithuanians.

Erikas Rutkauskas, a servant of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Community, received the award for the diversity of religions and beliefs. He defended the principle of religious freedom by legal means. The question raised by him was also analysed by the Constitutional Court, which concluded that the clergy of all religious communities should be treated equally in the Law on Military Obligations.
After the ceremony, the exhibition “Faces of Diversity” was opened in the lobby of the Royal Palace, which presents pictures where amateur and professional photographers have captured daily lives of various people and their unique moments. Later, this exposition will be shown in 35 Lithuanian municipalities.

The National Equity and Diversity Awards are organized by the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson together with the National Forum on Equality and Diversity. This year, the Open Lithuania Foundation, the British Council in Lithuania, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway and the Nordic Council of Ministers Office in Lithuania also contributed to the organization of the prizes.

The sixth edition of the National Equality and Diversity Awards is looking for its nominees. The Lithuanian public is invited to name the most remarkable human rights initiatives of 2018.

During the selection process last year 200 initiatives were named. 24 of them were selected for further consideration. On March the National Equality and Diversity Awards will be delivered at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. The awardees are selected for their accomplishments in the fields of gender equality, mutual understanding among nations, LGBT* equality, inclusion on the grounds of age, disability and different religions or believes. The ceremony also includes the award on the most prominent initiative, i.e. “Breakthrough of the Year”, and the “Open Society Citizen” award.
According to the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson Agneta Skardžiuvienė, the long list of nominees for the National Equality and Diversity Awards is like a Walk of Fame for human rights highlights in Lithuania: “The parallel with the famous Academy Awards is not a coincidence. Every year we hear about the most creative and determined people, who promote public respect for diversity and equality. We are eagerly waiting to learn who is bringing this honourable awards home,” she says.  “Gender, age or origin  should not define our judgment in private or professional life. The most important thing is our efforts and accomplishments, so we always encourage our employees’ confidence in their abilities despite their differences.
I believe that it may help to reveal one’s true potential and add more value to our society. It is a huge honor to be a part of the National Equality and Diversity Awards and to honor those who contribute to society’s growth and  elimination of stereotypes,” Head of “Swedbank” in Lithuania Dovilė Grigienė says. “Swedbank” is the general sponsor of the event. The National Equality and Diversity Awards has 8 categories. First, the committee of human rights experts will select three candidates in each category. Then society will be given an opportunity to vote for their favorites.
The winner will be announced after combining public and jury votes. You can nominate your candidate here: https://lygybe.lt/apdovanojimai The form will be open until the 19th of February. The National Equality and Diversity Awards is organized by the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson and the National Equality and Diversity Forum. This year the ceremony is supported by “Swedbank”, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, the British Council in Lithuania, the Open Lithuania Foundation, “Rimi Lithuania“, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Vilnius and  “Telia Lietuva”.
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