Belarusian opposition leader and human rights activist Svetlana Tikhanovskaya won the Woman in Power Award for her exceptional leadership role in Europe after advocating the fight to restore democracy in Belarus through the regime of longtime ruler Aleksander Lukashenko.
“I encourage all of you to continue to focus on Belarus and support us in our struggle for freedom. I am very grateful to all of you for this award. It belongs to every brave woman in Belarus who fights for freedom and dignity, ”Tikhanovskaya said in a video statement following the announcement.
The prizes, organized by the European Movement International (EMI) and the European Women’s Lobby, are awarded annually to honor women who strive to advance the European project in their professional or private capacity. They cover four categories, including women in power, women in action, women in business and women in youth activism, and are decided by a nine-member jury, which includes the Hungarian opposition MP and Vice-President of the Renew Europe group, Katalin Cseh and Europe first prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi.
“Tikhanovskaya faced a ruthless dictator after he fell into her family and is relentlessly leading a movement of the Belarusian freedom fighter in the face of unspeakable terror. You really are our hero, Sviatlana, ”Cseh tweeted after the results were announced.
In October, the democratic opposition in Belarus, represented by the Coordinating Council, also won 2020 of the European Parliament Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought. The initiative of courageous women as well as political and civil society personalities includes, among others, Tsikhanovskaya, the main opposition candidate, the Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, the musician and political activist Maria Kalesnikava and the political activists Olga Kovalkova and Veronika Tsepkalo.
“The fight for women’s rights is not one that women must pursue alone. It is our collective responsibility to strive for a society where all are equal and to stand up for the European ideals we stand for,” said Petros Fassoulas, General Secretary of European Movement International.
He added that the Women of Europe Awards are “the way it is organized to” demonstrate the role of women in politics, business and society as a whole and celebrate their contribution to European unity and cooperation “.
Other nominees for this category included Green MEP Terry Reintke, an activist for LGBT + and women’s rights, and Khamshajiny Gunaratnam, Oslo’s deputy mayor. At the opening of the award ceremony, EU Commissioner for Gender Equality, Helena Dalli, praised Ursula von der Leyen’s goal for a union of equality and stated that it is a union “in which women are recognized and treated as equal, and that benefit society as a whole ”.
“Women in Europe in education, science, health care and entrepreneurship, in democratic processes and elections all deserve credit,” added the Commissioner.
After the Belarusian Central Electoral Commission (CEC) announced on August 9 that incumbent President Lukashenko had won more than 80% of the vote, while his main rival Tikhanovskaya allegedly gained 9.9%, it fled to Lithuania, citing security concerns . The figures published by CEC and allegations that thousands were not allowed to vote and that CEC polls and official results were manipulated led to violent clashes in the capital, Minsk. Videos were circulating on the Internet showing the actions of the police forces on demonstrators.
Afterwards, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians took to the streets and asked Lukashenko to resign, hold fair elections and release political prisoners in the country. Hundreds were arbitrarily arrested and dozens killed by the country’s security forces, sparking an outcry from the European Union, which decided to use economic sanctions to beat the strongman Lukashenko and his allies.