November 2021 marks the third time the International Gender Equality Prize has been awarded. The prize money, which totals 300,000 euros in the 2021 edition, is given to an organisation or project “to promote gender equality and encourage discussion about equality on a global scale.” This year the biennial prize was presented to Gülsüm Önal, founder, president and general representative of the We Will Stop Femicide Platform, and Fidan Ataselim, founder and secretary-general of the same organisation, by Sanna Marin, the prime minister of Finland.
“Promoting gender equality worldwide requires effective actions and determined work. The International Gender Equality Prize recognises and raises awareness about this work, and also contributes to the promotion of gender equality globally,” says Marin.
Pioneer for gender equality
Gender equality has been on the agenda in Finland for more than a century. In 1906, Finland became the first country in the world to extend full political rights to women by passing a law allowing all women to both vote and run for election. But even earlier, in 1882, women were entitled to complete university degrees, highlighting the country’s role as a leader in gender equality issues and education. Studies show that education has always been the most important means of creating social and economic equality.
Heroes closing the gender gap
The International Gender Equality Prize awards organisations for their extraordinary effort, innovation and excellence in closing the gender gap.
The We Will Stop Femicide Platform has been working to stop femicide and ensure women’s protection from violence since 2010. The Platform provides legal assistance to women who need protection from violence, supports the families of murdered women, and advocates for changes to legislation to protect women.
“We have done what has needed to be done and what everyone should do. The fact that the international community has seen the fight in our country gives us great strength and happiness. The award coming from a country like Finland that promotes women’s rights is also a source of pride for us,” say Önal and Ataselim.
In 2017, the Government of Finland’s International Gender Equality Prize was awarded to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who directed the prize money to a Nigerian organisation that works to stop domestic violence. The organisation has used the funds to build a shelter for women.
In 2019, the prize went to the women’s rights organisation Equality Now, an international nonprofit organisation that documents violence and discrimination against women and mobilises international action to support efforts to stop these abuses.
Over 400 proposals were submitted worldwide for consideration for the award during the open nomination period. The Government of Finland made its decision based on the proposal by an independent international jury.
The jury included Member of Parliament Eva Biaudet (chair), a well-known human rights activist and former minister of health and social services (Finland); Member of Parliament Bella Forsgrén (Finland); Dean Peacock, director of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s initiative to confront militarised masculinities (South Africa); Matti Vanhanen, former prime minister and speaker of Parliament (Finland); and Ambassador Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security at Georgetown University (United States).
By Carina Chela, November 2021