Award ceremony for the 2018 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent.

Women In Action: Candidates for 2020 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize

The Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize has announced this year’s nominees; all of whom base their work on women’s rights. From Nepal, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Saudi Arabia, “they are on the front line of building a fairer and more just world, and we are all in their debt,” said PACE President Rik Daems. The winner will be announced in April 2021. Photo: Award ceremony for the 2018 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent. Credit: By Tore Sætre via Wikimedia, under license CC BY-SA 4.0.

Czech Rep., Jan 9 (BD) – The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize annually rewards exceptional actions in the protection of human rights in Europe and beyond. The prize is awarded every year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in association with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation. A prize of EUR 60,000, along with a trophy and a certificate, is awarded to the winner.

Since 2013, the prize has been presented mainly to human rights activists from non-EU countries, including Belarus, Azerbaijan, Russia, Iraq, China, and Turkey. An imprisoned Uyghur, Ilham Tohti, and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights organization were the joint winners of the prize in 2019. This year, all three candidates shortlisted for the 2020 prize are involved in the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality. “They are on the front line of building a fairer and more just world, and we are all in their debt,” said PACE president Rik Daems. 

Julienne Lusenge – Democratic Republic of Congo 

Lusenge is a human rights activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the president of Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development, a coalition of 40 women’s organizations in DRC. Lusenge has dedicated her work to defending and protecting women’s rights, to document the cases of abuse and violence against women in her country. Since 1998, when an inter-ethnic war started in DCR, she has been defending women’s rights against armed groups, as tensions between the fighting ethnic groups continue. She was successful in securing the convictions of many perpetrators of violence against women. 

Loujain al-Hathloul – Saudi Arabia 

One of the nominees for the prize is Loujain al-Hathloul, a female activist who stands for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia. She has been in jail since 2018 and sentenced to five years in total, convicted by Saudi Arabia’s Specialised Criminal Court for attempting to harm national security. International human rights organizations and groups have continuously called for her release. Hathloul was arrested only fourteen days before the decision was taken in 2018 to allow Saudi women to drive, the campaign that she supported. Yet, Saudi officials deny the reason for her detention. 

Kung Fu Nuns – Nepal 

A group of Buddhist nuns is another nominee for the prize, for their work in promoting gender equality, among many other internationally-recognised problems. Living in the Himalayas, they teach self-defense classes for women. The practice of spirituality is forbidden for women in the Himalayas and they were tasked with daily chores. The Nuns of Drukpa aimed to change this and worked to break down gender stereotypes, cycling more than 20,000 kilometers to protest against the inequalities and violence against women. The group is also known for its activities in environmental sustainability, for taking charge of community work after the 7.9 magnitude earthquake in 2015, and for building tolerance. They have already been awarded several international awards, including the Game Changer Award in 2019.  

The winner of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize will be announced on April 19th, 2021.

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