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Speculation intensifies: Who will receive the International Gender Equality Prize in 2021?

Publication date 14.5.2021 11.27

Speculation intensifies: Who will receive the International Gender Equality Prize in 2021? You are welcome to nominate your own candidate for the 300,000 euro prize online before 16 May 2021.

Achieving gender equality globally is not an easy task. But it is by no means impossible. Every day a great number of passionate people are working towards making it reality. And once every two years, one of them is awarded the prestigious International Gender Equality Prize. Who will it be this year?

If you are not already familiar with the International Gender Equality Prize, let us bring you up to speed. The IGEP was instituted by Finland to celebrate the country’s 100 years of independence in 2017.

Finland is of course known for many things, but despite the symbolic value of Finnish staples such as the sauna, mobile games, or even Moomin, gender equality is considered the defining aspect of the first century of Finnish independence.  So it was decided that every two years Finland would award the International Gender Equality Prize and an attached sum of 300,000 euros to an individual or an organization working to promote gender equality in an internationally significant way.

From Merkel to legal equality – via safe houses in Niger

As is the case with another well-known Nordic award, the Nobel Peace Prize, openness is an important element of the IGEP: anyone is welcome to nominate a candidate to receive the prize.

The inaugural International Gender Equality Prize in 2017 was awarded to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who directed the prize to SOS Femmes et Enfants Victimes de Violence Familiale. This non-governmental organization used the prize sum to build a safe house for victims of domestic violence in Niger.

In 2019, the next recipient of the International Gender Equality Prize was Equality Now, a civil society organization advocating for legal equality for women and girls. Equality Now leveraged the financial and publicity value of the prize by holding governments accountable to their legal commitments and achieved tangible results in 2020 when several countries repealed or amended certain discriminating laws.

This year the deadline for nominations is on 16 May, and you can submit your own candidate here. After the deadline closes, an independent international jury will review the submissions. Finally, the recipient of the prize will be revealed at a gala event in Tampere, Finland in late 2021.

Expert views: The 2021 prize should go to…

Before you put forward your own candidate for the next International Gender Equality Prize, we have gathered a selection of interesting experts to provide you with inspiration. We asked these deep thinkers to consider the current state of the world and share their thoughts on what type of work for gender equality could be deserving of the prize this year.

Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland:

”I feel that in the past few years people have become more perceptive about gender equality issues. Debates about how women and men are treated in our societies are now more frequent and more natural.

”The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted inequality between the genders. Often it is the women who are tasked with providing immediate care to their family members at home, or taking charge of children’s remote education.

”Also, professional fields where women are in the majority have borne the brunt of the pandemic. Not only the health care sector, but restaurants, hotels, schools, and many more. Our societies rely on women to function, and the pandemic has again made it clear, that true gender equality is still missing in many instances.

”A society where gender equality is achieved is a thriving society. If everyone is equal, everyone has better possibilities for individual improvement. The history of Finland proves this: we as a society have benefited greatly from equality.”

Pia Puu Oksanen, Expert on Women’s Rights, Amnesty International Finland:

”The biggest change in the world since the International Gender Equality Prize was last awarded in 2019 has obviously been the Covid-19 pandemic. But in its wake there has emerged a shadow pandemic that cannot be cured with vaccines: all forms of violence directed towards women have increased in the past year.

”Governments in several countries have used the corona pandemic as an excuse to renege on their commitments to the Istanbul Convention against domestic violence. Slipping from this particular human rights treaty marks a worrying example for the future. At the same time, hostile actors motivated by an anti-gender ideology have been able to increase their visibility and influence in the public discussion.

”However, local women’s rights organizations are actively defending the Convention, and their powerful campaigning has gained international attention. We all need to remember that the the Istanbul Convention saves lives.

”I feel that this year’s International Gender Equality Prize should send out a global message by awarding the prize to a grassroots organization working for equality. These are often small, local actors whose bold work deserves recognition.”

Dr Pekka Mattila, Professor of Practice, Member of the Board of UN Women Finland:

”In the past two decades, there has been notable development in the way we as people understand and appreciate the concepts of equality, diversity and participation. It is difficult to depict diversity with statistics because true diversity is about much more than just simple demographic elements such as gender or nationality. Deep diversity covers different educational backgrounds, cultural reference groups, cognitive models, and interaction skills.

“I find it intriguing that diversity does not seem to have a significant effect on the performance of a community unless true inclusion is achieved. And there is still a long way to go in this regard.

”Considering the next recipient of the International Gender Equality Prize, I would like to offer a different type of perspective. A lot of important work is being done away from the frontline. I would like to see attention paid to efforts such as development of services that help parents return to work from family leave, or to solutions that support individuals in the various turning points of their lives.

”Many actors who work on these issues have a major influence on our societies over time, even though headlines are not being written about them. Instead of focusing on presenting awards to individual ‘heroes’, I wish we could also recognize the healing powers of architectures and systems.”

Have your say – submit your IGEP candidate now!

Now is the time to have your say. Whether you have been inspired by the experts’ musings in this article, or already previously thought out a suitable candidate, the IGEP jury is eagerly waiting to hear from you. Simply use this online form to submit your candidate before the deadline on 16 May 2021!

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