The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has awarded prizes worth a total €50,000 to five projects working to implement gender equality in civil society.
The EESC’s Civil Society Prize is awarded every year to civil society initiatives which have demonstrated ‘excellence’ in a particular field: the theme of the 2019 awards was gender equality. The €14,000 first prize was awarded to the Italian Associazione Toponomastica Femminile (Association for Women’s Toponomy), an organisation devoted to promoting public recognition of women’s achievements by campaigning to increase the number of places and streets named after women. Research conducted by the Associazione has revealed that, for every 100 streets in Italy named after male public figures, only 7.8 are named for women; and around 60% of these are named after saints and religious figures. The Associazione believes that increasing this proportion may help to draw attention to the unrecognised contribution of women to society.
Associazione Toponomastica Femminile President Maria Pia Ercolini said: “You need laws to change a society but they are not enough to change behaviour in a lasting way if they are not supported by a parallel change in people’s imagination, you need to combat stereotypes and prejudice. This is not just a feminist battle, but a battle for a society based on solidarity and for civilisation.”
The four other winning organisations each received a €9,000 prize for their efforts to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment around the EU. They are:
- The Polish Women’s Strike: the country’s largest feminist movement, which works to empower women living in small and medium sized cities around Poland;
- The Fairy Tales project, operated by Bulgaria’s NAIA Association, which draws on classic fairy tales to encourage children to examine and question traditional gender roles;
- Finland’s Women Code (#mimmitkoodaa) programme, encouraging women to take advantage of training and employment opportunities in the software sector, where they are traditionally underrepresented; and
- The Brussels Binder, a database of female policy experts aimed at improving representation of women in policy discussions across the EU.
EESC Vice President for Communication Isabel Caño Aguilar said: “I am delighted that this year, the Civil Society Prize is about the empowerment of women. The projects we received fight for this empowerment. They start with young children and with the perceptions that influence us indirectly on a daily basis when we walk down the street or listen to a conference. They fight against horizontal segregation in the labour market in sectors dominated by men, such as IT. They fight against inequality by appealing to us at a subconscious level through the names of our streets; or they do so loudly, by making themselves heard in their home towns.”