On the evening of March 22nd at the Palace of the Grand Dukes, the National Equality and Diversity Awards took place. A commission and online voters selected people, organizations and initiatives to be honored for their contributions in the field of human rights in 2017.
Individuals and initiatives were awarded in eight categories:
The Breakthrough of the Year award went to Erika Račkytė. She was one of the first to come forward with her experience of sexual assault. After the actress appealed to law enforcement, the director who had violated her rights was removed from his position. Attendees expressed their solidarity with survivors of sexual assault by dressing in black in support of the #MeToo movement.
The Gender Equality award was given to the Specialized Help Centre network. Specialists from these organizations provide legal and psychological help to people who have suffered domestic violence. Last year, they provided help to about 12,000 people.
The Overcoming Obstacles award was given to Henrika Varnienė, director of the Lithuanian Disability Forum. She was honored for her contribution to the discussion around changing the employment system for those with disabilities, and opening dialogue with the Ministry of Healthcare about the lack of quality compensated medical care.
The Rainbow Appreciation Award award was given to LGL’s human rights policy coordinator Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius. The activist was honored for his work representing transgender people in national court, contributing to the formation of progressive policies in Lithuanian court for those changing their personal identity documents.
The Open Society Citizen award was given to the journalists of Sirvintos county’s newspaper “Sirvis”. Journalists Andželika Bagočiūnienė, Janina Pukienė and Valda Patinskienė stood up to opposition from regional authorities to create a space for independent information, giving a voice to those who would otherwise be voiceless.
The award “The Best Age – My Age” was given to Gita Mickevičiutė and her project “Kindergarten for Elders”. The activity center, founded in Alytus, combats isolation affecting those with limited mobility, bringing them together for social, creative and cognitive activities.
The Nations’ Dialogue award went to the Polish Discussion Club. This independent organization of Lithuanian Poles organizes public discussions and promotes nonpartisan dialogue between Poles and Lithuanians.
The Diversity of Religions and Beliefs award was given to Erikas Rutkauskas, a servant of the Jehova’s Witnesses community, for defending the principle of religious freedom by legal means. The Lithuanian Constitutional Court, upon reviewing his appeal, determined that the Law on Military Conscription must be applied equally to all religious leaders.
After the ceremony, the exhibition “Faces of Diversity” was opened in the Palace’s lobby, showcasing amateur and professional photographers’ depictions of the everyday lives and special moments of a diverse community. The exhibition will later travel to 35 Lithuanian cities.
The National Equality and Diversity Awards are organized by the Office of the Equal Opportunity Ombudsperson, along with the National Equality and Diversity Forum. The Open Lithuania Foundation, British Council in Lithuania, Norwegian Embassy and Nordic Council of Ministers also contributed to organization this year.