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PACE and the Government of Iceland launch the ‘Vigdís Prize for Women's Empowerment’ ahead of Reykjavik Summit

PACE Secretary General at the ceremony of the Vigdís Prize for Women’s Empowerment by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

On 15 May 2023, in Reykjavík, Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) President Tiny Kox today launched, in Reykjavik, the ‘Vigdís Prize for Women’s Empowerment’, in the presence of former Icelandic President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the first woman in the world to be elected as a Head of State, to whom the Prize pays tribute, as well as Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić and PACE Equality Committee Chairperson Mariia Mezentseva.

The 60,000-euro annual prize rewards outstanding initiatives which promote the empowerment of women in all their diversity, with a broad remit covering achievements in gender equality or equal access to participation and decision-making, as well as action to encourage inclusive policies and practice. Eligible candidates can be individuals or civil society groups. The prize will be presented during each June part-session of the Parliamentary Assembly.

“Everyone who remembers the day of Vigdís’s election remembers that feeling that anything is possible,” Katrín Jakobsdóttir said. “Her role in the social shift towards more gender equality in Iceland cannot be overstated, and her influence reached beyond the shores of Iceland. Her election set Iceland on the path we have followed ever since, committed to the fight for gender equality and always striving to use our voice to advance the cause internationally,” she added.

“Fundamental rights and freedoms can only be achieved in our societies if they include women. Their empowerment is therefore key for the Council of Europe,” said Tiny Kox. “Since 1975 Vigdís Finnbogadóttir has tirelessly advocated the eminent importance of women’s empowerment. Not an easy task, but as she kept explaining to us: social change always goes from unthinkable to impossible to inevitable. Women’s empowerment is inevitable now,” he declared.

“The barriers to women’s empowerment are many and high, but as our understanding of them evolves, so does our action to overcome them,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić. “In all of this, systems – and political will – are vital. But so too are the pioneers who shake our assumptions and open our eyes to the possible. People like Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. I look forward to seeing this prize rewarding achievement, and inspiring change,” she underlined.

“Many of our committee’s reports call for women’s empowerment,” said PACE’s Equality Committee Chairperson Mariia Mezentseva. “Those texts underline that there is a great need for champions for women and girls to look up to, as models and as a source of inspiration in areas where they have been little recognised until now. The Prize will be a great tool in this endeavour, helping to show girls and women what they can achieve, especially together,” she concluded.