Finland awards International Gender Equality Prize to Afghanistan-based NGO

Finland on Monday presented the International Gender Equality Prize for 2023 to the Afghan Women Skills Development Center, an NGO in Afghanistan that provides women with training and supports their skills development and economic empowerment.

In a ceremony attended by Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo in Tampere, the organization’s representative, Mahbouba Seraj, was presented with the 300,000 euro prize.

Afghanistan, under Taliban rule, stands as an example where women’s human rights are systematically suppressed. Access to secondary education for girls and higher education for women has been denied since the Taliban took power.

The International Gender Equality Prize has a history of recognizing organizations and individuals committed to gender equality.

In 2021, it was awarded to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform in Turkey, while in 2019, Equality Now, a global non-profit organization, received the honor. The 2017 prize went to then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who directed the funds to a Nigerien organization working to combat domestic violence.

During the ceremony, Prime Minister Orpo reaffirmed Finland’s longstanding support for gender equality and women’s rights in Afghanistan, spanning two decades. He emphasized Finland’s continued commitment to providing essential support in the current challenging situation, pledging not to forget Afghan women.

The Afghan Women Skills Development Center focuses on offering training, supporting skills development, and promoting economic empowerment for Afghan women. Operating in eight provinces across the country, the organization collaborates with the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR to provide protection to women and families at risk. The center also offers humanitarian assistance, including food, hygiene products, and financial support.

Accepting the award, Seraj expressed gratitude and outlined plans to utilize the funds for a project benefiting all the women involved. She emphasized acknowledging the award as a recognition from one of the world’s leading countries in gender equality.

Finland, a pioneer in women’s rights, granted universal suffrage in 1906 and elected women to Parliament in 1907. The nation’s success is closely linked with advancements in women’s status and gender equality.