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Dear Readers,

As the voice of Europe's civil society, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) supports and acknowledges the precious work of the EU's diverse civil society organisations, trade unions and employers' organisations, who, every day and in their own way, strive to make our Union a better place.

Once a year, the EESC awards a special prize to celebrate and pay tribute to particular achievements of Europe's civil society in a given field, after carefully identifying a theme that covers an important area of its work. This year, our Civil Society Prize was awarded for the eleventh time and I am delighted and proud to say that we chose to dedicate it to women's empowerment and actions championing gender equality.

In short

Watch the 2019 Civil Society Prize ceremony

Relive the best moments of the award ceremony with our video!

Civil Society Prize brochure

The EESC has published a brochure showcasing all five winning projects and providing background information about the Civil Society Prize.

Civil Society Prize 2019 in the media


Italian organisation "Women's Toponymy" is the winner of the 2019 EESC Civil Society Prize

On 12 December, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) awarded prizes to five civil society organisations who stand up for equal opportunities for women and men, raise awareness about women's potential and achievements, and contribute to their empowerment in Europe's society and economy. The prize of EUR 50 000 was shared among five winning projects. The Italian organisation "Women's Toponymy" took the first prize of EUR 14 000. The four runners-up each received EUR 9 000 and ranked in the following order: the Polish Women's Strike, the Bulgarian Association NAIA with its Fairy Tales project, the Finnish Software and eBusiness Association and its Women Code programme, and The Brussels Binder from Belgium.

In the winners' words

What's in a name: fighting the gender gap through toponymy

The Italian organisation Toponomastica femminile, winner of the first prize, is committed to combating gender disparities by naming places, particularly urban streets, squares and parks, after notable women. Maria Pia Ercolini argues that this symbolic recognition of their contributions to the community can go a long way towards guaranteeing women their rightful place in society.

The Polish Women's Strike: getting small-town women into the fight for women's rights

The Polish Women's Strike (PWS), winner of the second prize, is a grassroots movement that arose in Poland in 2016 as a reaction to the government's attempt to scrap women's abortion rights. Since then the movement has grown across the country and led a number of actions that have seen the mass participation of women from small and medium-sized Polish cities. PWS's Marta Lempart shares her thoughts on the vital importance of this movement in today's Poland.


NAIA: "Domestic violence is a social problem, not a private one"

The Bulgarian association NAIA, winner of the third prize, has been fighting domestic violence in small, underprivileged communities for 20 years, carrying on its programme of social assistance to victims in dire circumstances. In parallel, as Svetla Sivcheva explains in this interview, it focuses on prevention by working with young children to explore ways of breaking and overcoming social stereotypes in order to open up their horizons and fulfil their potential.

#mimmitkoodaa: infiltrating a stronghold of gender segregation – the IT industry

Getting more women to understand software is the core mission of the Finnish Software and eBusiness Association (Ohjelmisto- ja e-business ry), winner of the fourth prize. They offer hands-on, free of charge workshops to women with no previous coding experience to help them flourish in the IT industry. Rasmus Roiha and Milja Köpsi spoke to us about #mimmitkoodaa's philosophy and how the organisation is planning to use the prize money.

The Brussels Binder: changing the face of Brussels panels

Brussels hosts a huge number of debates every year. Two thirds of the speakers featured in such panels are male. However, there are plenty of women who could be relied on to bring both expertise and diversity to EU debates. Building a platform that can act as a hub for both women experts and panels organisers looking for speakers has been the core of the Brussels Binder strategy to fight this imbalance. EESC Info talked to Juliane Schmidt about their overall strategy to change the male face of Brussels panels.