On 22nd March, 2018 the fifth annual National Equality and Diversity Awards took place at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. A jury and online voters selected people, organizations and initiatives to be honoured for their contributions in the field of human rights in 2017.
This event has become a symbol of appreciation for many nominated and awarded people and the opportunity to publicly talk about social issues that concern them the most. During the event, eight awards were given to individuals, organizations and initiatives, signifying a breakthrough in promoting equal opportunities and diversity in Lithuania last year.
The National Equality and Diversity Awards 2017 were exceptional not only for the meaningful anniversary, but also included a theatrical event “Voices of Diversity” and the opening of the photo exhibition “Faces of Diversity” at the Palace of the Grand Dukes.
“Voices of Diversity” is the name for five theatrical events at the major theatres or culture centres that will be organised in five Lithuanian towns. Five or four representatives of vulnerable groups will share their personal experiences by emphasizing the importance of the impact of non-discrimination and the benefits of promoting equal opportunities and diversity in Lithuanian society. Personal stories will be associated with music, dance performances and documentary films.
The purpose of the exhibition “Faces of Diversity” is to invite Lithuanian society to contribute to positive changes in increasing tolerance in terms of revealing people’s differences in the topics of race, nationality, ethnic identity, religion, social status, origin, language, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, beliefs and convictions. The exhibition will be exposed in thirty five municipalities of Lithuania and in each of them reveal as many different themes and areas as possible in creating a visual art dialogue between photographers and visitors.
We are glad that almost four hundred guests had an exclusive opportunity to become the first visitors of the exhibition and to appreciate and share the impressions of the opening ceremony and the exhibition by participating in the opening ceremony of the event.
According to H. E. Karsten Klepsvik, Ambassador of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Vilnius, who introduced the exhibition, diversity encourages our society to become stronger and more flexible. The main feature of democratic society is to ensure equal opportunities and the involvement of each individual in public life. It is a prerequisite for sustainable social and economic development. Therefore, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Vilnius is pleased to contribute to initiatives that help us to achieve these goals.
Agneta Skardžiuvienė, Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson of the Republic of Lithuania, expressed her hope that such initiatives would continue to develop and grow by making a positive contribution to the growth of people’s awareness and tolerance in Lithuania.
Rūta Ostrovskaja, the curator of exhibition “Faces of Diversity”, assured that the authors’ opportunity to demonstrate their photos on event of this magnitude and in thirty-five municipalities in Lithuania is a big step forward in raising public awareness as well as one of the most sincere ways to initiate dialogue with many people. Each photo tells its unique story which could become the first person’s impulse to change his or her opinion or even lifestyle.
The photography exhibition “Faces of Diversity” consists of photos selected by way of contest, organized by the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson’s Officeand the Human Rights Monitoring Institute and non-contest photos, selected by the National LGBT* rights organization LGL. All selected photos will be demonstrated in the exhibition which will be held during 2018-2020. Also, the exhibited photos contribute to the raising awareness of Lithuanian population and are a part of the project “Change in business, the public sector and society – new standards for minimizing discrimination” No. 07. 3. 4-ESFA-V-426-01-0001, funded by the European Social Fund Agency.
The photography exhibition “Faces of Diversity” was also presented in the electronic and printed programmes “Voices of Diversity” of the National Equality and Diversity Awards 2017.
The article is published under the framework of the project “Change in Private, Public and Civic Sectors – New Standards for Reducing Discrimination” No. 07. 3. 4-ESFA-V-426-01-0001. The project is implemented under the framework of the Operational Programme for EU Structural Funds Investments for 2014-2020 based on the decition by the European Commission of 8 September, 2014 Nr. C (2014) 6397, priority No. 7 “Promoting of Quality Employment and Participation in the Labor Market” No. 07.3.4-ESFA-V-426, implementation measure “Reducing Discrimination”. The project is implemented by the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson’s Office of the Republic of Lithuania and partners: Human Rights Monitoring Institute and the National LGBT* rights organization LGL.