On the 29th of March, 2017 during a gala at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania individuals and organisations were awarded for their work and initiatives in human rights field last year.
This award ceremony was held the fourth year in a row. Every year the Office organises awards together with the National Equality and Diversity Forum, but this year the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Lithuania joined the team of the organisers.
This year the people of Lithuania named even 107 different candidates to win the awards. Out of all suggestions the selection committee chose 3 nominees in each 10 categories. Winners were revealed after summarizing all votes from public voting and committee’s scores.
Awards 2016 for merit in equality and diversity field were presented in these nominations:
Gender Equality award was handed to the director of Vilnius Crisis Center Nijolė Dirsienė for long-term care for women who are victims of violence and for more than 20 years of active work in the violence prevention field.
Vilnius Crisis Center provides assistance to women who are victims of trafficking and domestic violence, as well as orphans in foster homes, who have no social skills, income, proper education and profession to live independently, or who are affected by natural disasters (such as fire) and do not have housing and etc. Women are provided with accommodation; also receive psychological help, legal assistance and social services. Women or their relatives can contact the Center 24 hours.
Nations Dialogue award was handed to the president of Vilnius Ukrainian community Natalija Šervytienė, for active fostering of nations’ dialogue in Lithuania, Ukrainian national identity protection and assistance during the integration process of Ukrainian people.
During her public activities Natalija is focused on supporting the Ukrainian people. Thanks to heartfelt work Vilnius Ukrainian community has become one of the most active communities of ethnic minorities in Lithuania – various exhibitions, concerts, poetry evenings and conferences are organized. These events introduce Lithuanian society to Ukrainian history, culture, customs and traditions. Lithuanian citizens with various ethnic backgrounds participate in the events. Award winner is also actively involved in the movements of world’s Ukrainian organizations; she is an elected member of World’s Ukrainian federation of Women Organizations.
Rainbow Appreciation award was handed to the authors of social internet platform “išgir̃stì” – organization “In Corpore” – for creating safe space that helps LGBT* individuals and people who are close to them to be heard and share their experience.
Platform “išgir̃stì” provides information for LGBT* and people who surround them. In 2016 “išgir̃stì” Facebook page shared few dozen stories by LGBT* and their friends and relatives. A lot of attention caught visual story series, released during the International Day against Homophobia, where famous public persons shared stories from their lives: Rafailas Karpis, Dominykas Vaitiekūnas, Agnė Grigaliūnienė, Eglė Daugėlaitė-Kryževičienė and others. 11 stories were presented to the public and on internet website Youtube these videos had almost 100 000 views.
The Best Age – My Age award was given to a football coach from Marijampolė Martynas Karpavičius for organising senior women football championship for the first time in Lithuania.
The idea to organize such event originated last year during families’ football championship in Vilkaviškis district while watching grandmothers and grandchildren play together when Martynas realized – why don’t we hold a senior women football championship? It wasn’t difficult to arrange everything – Lithuanian Grassroots Football Association and sponsors provided with uniforms and prizes. Even though at first the idea caused smiles, eventually after the championship Lithuanian Football Association admitted that this initiative was the best in 2016.
This year at the end of April as much as 9 teams (last year there were 6) will participate in the second senior women football championship. Besides Marijampolė and Vilkaviškis teams Kaunas and Visaginas teams will also join the championship.
Overcoming Obstacles Award was handed to the volunteer Albertas Aužbikavičius from Lithuanian Library for the Blind who voiced-over 53 books. This initiative helped the visually impaired to experience and enjoy the world of literature.
A Special Award was presented to Lithuanian Paralympians who spotlighted the inequality in sports with their achievements. Journalist Andrius Tapinas handed the award to Mindaugas Bilius, the Paralympian who was recently elected as the president of the Paralympic committee.
The Religious Diversity Award was given to a TV show “Beyond here and now”, broadcasted on LRT Kultūra network, for encouraging critical thinking and discussions about the importance of religious diversity in Lithuania and around the world.
Algirdas Acus, the creator of this brand new show (the show started in 2016), examines topics relevant to human rights: religion and feminism, disability, media, atheism, etc. The TV show “Beyond here and now” searches for answers about the world’s greatest religions. The host of TV show and journalist A. Acus analyzes the challenges world’s biggest religions like Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and etc. face in confrontation with present-day problems. The director of the show is Rimantas Babrauskas, and the adviser – Kęstutis Dubnikas, the associated professor in Vilnius University Faculty of Philosophy, and expert in religion.
The Breakthrough of the Year Award was handed to the organizers of “Baltic Pride” 2016 march “For Equality!” for the most successful LGBT+ community march in Lithuanian history.
“Baltic Pride” march “For Equality!”, which took place in June 2016, was the third in Vilnius. Bearing a slogan “We Are People, Not Propaganda!” more than 3000 people from Lithuania and all around the world marched the central street of the capital, among them members of the European Parliament, foreign and Lithuanian politicians, the representatives of international organizations. Organizers rejoiced over the fact that for the first time LGBT+ community didn’t have to fight in courts for the march to happen and the event itself was incident-free.
The Media Voice Award was given to Kristina Aksamitaitė, the journalist of internet news website 15min.lt, for promoting ideas of equality and diversity through articles on gender equality, Roma integration, reduction of violence against women and other human rights issues.
First of all, Kristina Aksamitaitė writes about human rights topics because they interest her and 15min.lt desk gives her complete creative freedom in choosing them. “I believe in what I write about. To be honest, readers are not as much interested as I am – my articles on gender equality or Roma integration do not get many clicks. But I don’t work in order to get ”clicks“. I just believe that media has to be educational and morally valuable. I trust I can contribute to raising awareness in society about human rights. Even though just a little bit,” says the journalist.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to late Leonidas Donskis for his merit in human rights field. The award was accepted by his wife Jolanta Donskienė.
This year in addition to the usual awards a special award for “Outstanding Contribution to Strengthening Civil Society” was introduced by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Lithuania. It was presented to the coalition “Mental Health 2030” for promoting principles of openness, transparency and human rights in the mental healthcare system.
The winners were honored with statuettes made by artist Viktoras Dailidėnas.
The guests of the evening were entertained by accordionist Martynas Levickis, pianist Linas Duržinskas, Lithuanian choir of the blind “Feniksas” and children’s choir “ReMiDo”. The host of the awards was Marijus Žiedas.
Guests were welcomed by Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson Agneta Skardžiuvienė, the representative of the National Equality and Diversity Forum Dovilė Juodkaitė and H. E. Dag Malmer Halvorsen, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway in Lithuania.
The Awards were handed by member of the European Parliament Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, members of the Seimas Aušrinė Armonaitė and Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Dakar Rally racers Vaidotas Žala and Saulius Jurgelėnas, chairperson of the National Communities Council Gunta Ronė, H. E. Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway in Lithuania Dag Malmer Halvorsen, project „Misija Sibiras“ leader Ignas Rusilas, journalists Andrius Tapinas and Indrė Makaraitytė, the Vice-Minister of Justice Justas Pankauskas and Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson Agneta Skardžiuvienė.
The event was broadcasted live on LRT Kultūra.
Augustas Didžgalvis was the photographer of the award ceremony. The photos of the event can be found here.