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Human Rights NGO wins Finland's gender equality prize

The recipient of the award will also receive 300,000 euros from the Finnish government.

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Equality Now aims to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world, and is particularly active in Kenya. Image: Dai Kurokawa / EPA

Finland's International Gender Equality Prize has been awarded to the global non-profit organisation Equality Now as a recognition of its work in tackling gender inequality and changing discriminatory laws around the world.

The organisation will also receive 300,000 euros from the Finnish government.

Yasmeen Hassan, Global Executive Director of Equality Now, collected the award on behalf of the organisation at a ceremony in Tampere on Monday afternoon, and thanked the Finnish Government for recognising the importance of gender equality by creating the prize.

"Of course we are excited. Women's organisations are small all over the world and often lack the resources. That is why getting such recognition is fantastic," Hassan said.

Equality Now was established in New York in 1992 with the aim of protecting and promoting the rights of women and girls around the world. Currently, the organisation is particularly active in Kenya, where it is trying to reduce child marriages, sexual abuse of women and female genital mutilation. According to Hassan, much work remains to be done.

"Equality for women and girls is the solution to some of the biggest challenges the world is facing today – peace and security, poverty eradication and climate change," Hassan said. "In addition to being the right and just thing to do, it is also the smartest investment for humanity."

Prime Minister Antti Rinne had originally been due to hand over the prize, but he was unable to attend. His place was taken by Finland's Minister for Gender Equality Thomas Blomqvist.

According to the organisation's website, Equality Now is a non-governmental organisation that aims "to increase awareness of the violations to women's rights that happen every day around the world".

300 submissions from around the world

During the open nomination period, over 300 proposals from more than 60 countries were submitted for consideration for the award, and the final decision was based on the recommendation of an independent international jury.

The jury included Pekka Haavisto, Finland's current Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eva Biaudet, President of the National Council of Women of Finland, Katja Iversen, President and CEO of Women Deliver, Anneli Jäätteenmäki, a former Member of the European Parliament, and Dean Peacock, Senior Advisor for Global Advocacy at Promundo.

Haavisto, who chaired the jury, said Equality Now's effectiveness in changing laws and harmful practices around the world was the key to it receiving the award.

"The main obstacles for progress in global gender equality are negative attitudes and structures," Haavisto said. "Discriminatory laws and practices still exist in all countries of the world."

In 2017, the International Gender Equality Prize was awarded to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She requested that the 150,000-euro prize money be allocated to an anti-domestic violence organisation in Nigeria, which is using the funds to build a shelter for women.

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