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A Reverse Birthday Present, Finnish Style

Publication date 6.5.2021 11.08

How the International Gender Equality Prize helped Equality Now hold governments accountable in 2020

When people celebrate their birthdays, they usually receive presents. But countries are a bit different – or at least Finland is. To mark their 100 years of independence in 2017, Finns decided they should give a present instead. 

Out of this idea, and the fact that gender equality had been a strong value for Finland during its first 100 years, the International Gender Equality Prize was born. It is a prize of 300,000 euros, awarded once every two years to an individual or an organization that works to promote gender equality in a globally significant way. 

Everyone is welcome to nominate their candidate for the prize. Just click here to put forward your suggestion before this year’s deadline on 16 May.

Equality Now – Holding governments accountable to deliver legal equality for women and girls

The first ever International Gender Equality Prize in 2017 went to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. She forwarded the prize sum to SOS FVFF, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence in Niger. You can read about the brilliant work that SOS FVFF does here

The recipient of the prize in 2019 was Equality Now, an organization dedicated to using the law to promote and protect the human rights of women and girls all over the world. Before focusing on who to nominate for the prize in 2021, now is a good time to check up with Equality Now and see how the International Gender Equality Prize has supported their work in the past two years.
”Since 1992, our mission has been to hold governments accountable. We want to make sure that governments live up to their legal obligations and commitments, and act on their responsibility to protect and promote the rights of all women and girls under the law. The International Gender Equality Prize has helped us succeed in this, and we are honoured to have received the award,” says Niki Kandirikirira, Global Director of Programmes at Equality Now.

Real change is under way

In 2020, Equality Now advanced their mission on several fronts. A major milestone was in March when they, together with a coalition of international partners, published the fifth edition of a global advocacy report: Words & Deeds – Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing +25 Review Process.

”The report highlights sex discriminatory laws in 54 different countries. Since the report’s publication, five countries have already responded to our call for reforms and implemented changes in their legislation. 

”For example Syria has repealed a law granting more lenient penalties for so-called ’honor killings’, Russia has liberalized regulations on types of work available to women, and Switzerland has amended its laws on paid paternity leave for men,” Kandirikirira says.

Positive attention at the UN, EU, and more

Coinciding with the release of the report, Equality Now headed to New York where Finland’s UN Ambassador had invited Equality Now’s Global Executive Director Yasmeen Hassan to meet with Prime Minister Sanna Marin. At a side event for International Women’s Day, the pair discussed the topic Accelerating Gender Equality, with several UN ambassadors attending. 

Shortly after, the European Parliament Think Tank produced an in-depth analysis of Discriminatory Laws Undermining Women’s Rights which cited Equality Now’s efforts and campaigns.
”Being connected to the Government of Finland, which has long been a champion of women’s rights is helping us to make new connections in governments around the world. 

”To bring about change for women and girls, we need to reach governments through many different avenues. Whether it is the Finnish government presenting us with the opportunity to speak with UN ambassadors, or the European Parliament Think Tank encouraging EU member states to notice and support our campaigns, it all serves to advance equality for women and girls,” Kandirikirira says.

No rest until legal equality

Although Equality Now has achieved a lot before and after receiving the International Gender Equality Prize, there is still much to do.

”While all academic studies and practical experience make it more than clear that gender equality is beneficial for a country’s economy, society, and general prosperity, law reforms ensuring gender equality are still advancing too slowly. In some countries, they are even regressing.

”We will keep on holding governments accountable and mobilizing support for an end to sex discriminatory laws. The International Gender Equality Prize has enabled us to sustain this movement. Until we have achieved full legal equality for all, we will continue to engage in advocacy and movement building for law reform at all levels,” says Kandirikirira.

Who is your candidate in 2021? Get voting!

As we can see, this is the kind of unique birthday present that keeps on giving! You can learn more about Equality Now’s wide-reaching work at
Now, we hope you are feeling suitably inspired to submit your own candidate to be the next recipient of the International Gender Equality Prize. 

Who do you think should receive additional visibility and the sum of 300,000 euros for their global efforts to advance gender equality? Is it an influential individual like Chancellor Merkel? Or a hard-working organization like Equality Now? Click here and have your say!

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