The Baltic Pride 2022 festival, held in June 2022, was notable for a record number of participants. On June 4 the March for Equality and Peace and the Proud Cities concert in Vilnius attracted up to 20,000 Vilnius residents and city guests. We asked the festival organizers and partners what led to the success of the Baltic Pride 2022.
A Unique Partnership between Vilnius and Oslo in the Context of Baltic Pride 2022
Vladimir Simonko, the Executive Director of the National LGBT rights organization LGL, says that Baltic Pride has become an example of success for all Baltic states: “This festival should inspire our community and society to seek important changes for all of us in the field of LGBTI human rights. I believe that Baltic Pride has the potential to grow into the biggest LGBTI event in our region in the future.”
“I admire the fact that this year we established a unique partnership with the municipalities of Vilnius and Oslo and the Lithuanian Diversity Charter, which unites dozens of Lithuanian organizations and companies that prioritize equality and diversity. This shows that Baltic Pride is increasingly recognized in our society. What I dreamed about became a reality. Baltic Pride was a unique march along Gediminas Avenue, which sent an important message to the whole of Lithuania that we exist, we are heard, and we need the same rights as everyone else in our country,” says the Executive Director of LGL.
Ieva Dirmaitė, Chief of Staff at Vilnius City Municipality, emphasizes that diversity, openness, and courage of Vilnius are particularly important engines for the city’s growth and success: “This year’s Baltic Pride festival was not only an obvious victory of love over hate, a march for equal opportunities and peace, but also a huge and significant step in the history of the city, specifically in the field of ensuring human rights and equal opportunities.”
“As one of the leaders of this project at Vilnius City Municipality, I really want changes to continue in this direction. Such events not only create a festive, joyful atmosphere in the city, but also allow you to experience that practical added value for Vilnius and its residents in the context of city diplomacy – in this case, this festival is also an excellent example of active international cooperation between Vilnius and Oslo – sister cities. I hope we will continue to build on this collaboration in the future as well”, assures Ieva Dirmaitė.
Marianne Borgen, the Mayor of Oslo, says that the Baltic Pride 2022 festival was particularly important for all of Europe during this difficult period.
“I had the privilege of attending Baltic Pride 2022 in Vilnius, to represent the City of Oslo and share our best practice in the field of LGBTI rights and inclusion. Oslo and Vilnius are sister cities and have cooperated in many fields, the latest being equal opportunities and human rights. There are dark forces at play in Europe who do not accept the rights the LGBTI population has fought for. We must continue to push for tolerance and acceptance and never let extremist ideology prevail. Baltic Pride 2022 was a beacon of light and walking in the March for Equality and Peace with record attendance was a beautiful celebration of the progress the Baltic states have made in recognizing the rainbow community.”
Artists and Businesses Supported the Idea of the Festival
According to LGL Executive Director, the success of the festival was also demonstrated by mainstream concert Proud Cities, organized together with the association organizing the country’s most important music awards “M.A.M.A” near the White Bridge: “The concert became an expression of togetherness and solidarity with the Ukrainian LGBTI community suffering from the war. The concert of this level, held for the first time, allowed the artists to actively express their position on human rights issues.”
“This year we aimed to make Baltic Pride even friendlier, more attractive and more massive. I think we succeeded in achieving this goal. For this, I want to thank our partners, sponsors, and the LGBTI community. I appreciate everyone’s support for the Baltic Pride. I appreciate their warm words and faith in our team” says Vladimir Simonko.
Simona Lėverienė, head of Swedbank’s Career Center and Board Member of the Lithuanian Diversity Charter, reveals why it is important for Swedbank to support Baltic Pride.
“Swedbank’s activities are guided by the principles of equality, diversity, and respect for human rights. Therefore, we support several initiatives that draw attention to human rights issues, including the Baltic Pride. Support and mutual respect for both our customers and employees is important. Only an open organization that recognizes the rights of all, sees and respects differences builds the trust of its colleagues, partners, and customers. It is an integral part of Swedbank’s daily operations” emphasizes Simona Lėverienė.
DK Bartley, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at Moody’s, insists that it is particularly important for the company to support LGBTI rights around the world, including the Baltic Pride festival in Lithuania: “We want our employees to embrace the concept of difference and the concept of how we function.”
“We want to be sure that you as an LGBTQI+ person know that we support LGBTQI+ rights and we support those values quite purposefully. More importantly, we have implemented global diversity, equity, and inclusion training. That global training not only talks about what you could do to be more functional with race, gender and LGBTI employees. All our employees starting from our CEO have gone through this training that talks about the LGBTI experience and that’s where that equity piece comes in place. It’s important that the training talks about the way we behave as a company, how we interact, how we relate to each other. It’s a different way of thinking that we believe has been extremely effective in educating our employees how to work better with people that don’t look like you, sound like you, come from your same background, and have different experience” claims DK Bartley.
The Success of the Baltic Pride Encourages Ambitious Plans
The organizers of the festival claim that the success of the Baltic Pride encouraged them to consider even more ambitious plans and establish more meaningful partnerships: “Since Baltic Pride was a successful project, it inspired me and my team to think about preparations for the next step: to win the right to host EuroPride in Vilnius.”
“I have no doubt that our application, submitted together with the Vilnius City Municipality and other partners, could be successful and we have a good chance of gaining this honourable right to invite the European LGBTI community to Vilnius. This would once again confirm that Vilnius can be an example for other European capitals, as a city that is open and safe for everyone” LGL Executive Director Vladimir Simonko reveals the plans.
The article was prepared under the framework of the project Baltic Pride 2022 Communication Campaign, funded by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany.