2016 Roma Spirit Awards in the Czech Republic: Ctibor Nečas, R-Mosty, Evangelical Academy, Richard Samko and Olga Fečová
The 2016 Roma Spirit Awards for aid to the Romani minority and efforts at good coexistence were won this year by the R-Mosty company, the Evangelical Academy, and Czech Television journalist Richard Samko. The award for cultural contribution went to teaching assistant Olga Fečová, while the scholar Ctibor Nečas won in the Individual category.
The sixth year of the awards ceremony was held last Saturday evening at the Prague Crossroads venue on the occasion of International Human Rights Day. The aim of the project is, according to organizers, to draw attention to the efforts of all who contribute to improving the situation of Romani people in the Czech Republic and to breaking down prejudices.
This year the jury nominated 15 firms, individuals and organizations in five categories with no nominations in two of the usual categories. The award includes a cash prize - each victor receives CZK 20 000 (EUR 740) in order to continue his or her activities.
The main jury that chose the winners of the 2016 Roma Spirit Awards in the Czech Republic was composed of the following people:
- Ľubomíra Slušná-Franz, the author of the idea of the Roma Spirit project,
- Michael Kocáb, organizer of the Roma Spirit Awards in the Czech Republic,
- Petr Dvořák, General Director of Czech Television,
- Renáta Köttnerová, the Olomouc Region Coordinator for National Minorities,
- Lucie Fuková Horváthová, civil society member, Czech Government Inter-Ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs
In the category of nonprofit organizations, the R-Mosty organization won, which has gradually, since 1993, responded to the actual needs of the Romani minority by expanding its social prevention services. The organization won for its "Fair Housing" project, which arranges accommodation for Romani families, single mothers and other people.
In the category of Company/Employer/Firm, the Evangelical Academy - College and Higher School of Social Work won for its long-term efforts to educate Romani people. In 1997 the school began its "Social Work in an Ethnic Minority Environment" project and became a launchpad for hundreds of Romani people during the 1990s who acquired an education and accessed job opportunities because of it.
The award in the Media category for disseminating a positive legacy of mutual tolerance and understanding was won by the Romani journalist Richard Samko, who has worked 17 years for public broadcaster Czech Television and collaborates with the ROMEA organization. In his acceptance speech, Samko called on the public, including politicians, to respect Romani people and give them a chance.
Romani teaching assistant Olga Fečová was awarded for her contributions to Romani culture, as for the last 20 years she has led the children's ensemble Čhavorikani Luma (Children's World) and other dance and theater hobby groups for disadvantaged children. "I do my best to shape these children up so they will lead meaningful lives," she commented on her work.
The historian Ctibor Nečas won in the category of individual for his lifelong contribution to the field of Romani Studies, both in terms of academic work and popularization. Professor Nečas is an eminent Cech historian specializing in the field of researching Romani history, and is an internationally recognized, highly appreciated researcher.
Thanks to his monograph of "The Holocaust of the Czech Reoma", which has also been published in English translation, as well as his other studies published in journals abroad, Nečas is a recognized expert in Europe. The bibliography of his Romani Studies publications includes more than 255 separate works.
In the category of City or Municipality, where an award is given for programs aimed at integrating the Romani minority into society, noody was nominated this year. Similarly, nobody was given an award in the category of Good Deed of the Year for an action contributing to the saving of somebody's life.
The auspices for this year's event were provided by Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL), by former Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), and by the Auxiliary Bishop of Prague, Václav Malý. The ceremony was also attended by former Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD).
"Human rights are either upheld or they are not. It is not possible that they apply just for some people," Herman told the audience.
Dienstbier said that if everybody in society were to be considered its full-fledged members, "we all will live better". Several musicians also performed during the course of the evening.
The audience heard the singing of Monika Bagárová, Mário Biháry and Radek Banga, who expressed his disagreement in November during the "Czech Nightingale" music awards when the neo-Nazi Ortel band won second place by walking out of the audience during the live broadcast in protest. Speaking at Roma Spirit, Banga thanked the people who had sent him positive responses to his protest.
Banga also said he believes that many people in the Czech Republic still believe that hate is never a solution. The Roma Spirit Awards were originally called "Gypsy Spirit" and changed their name last year.
In the Czech Republic the competition was first run by the Human Rights Section of the Office of the Czech Government. After Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas took office, the project was closed down, but was revived in 2013 after a three-year hiatus by the Michael Kocáb Foundation and Otevřená společnost (Open Society).
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