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January 23, 2020
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Michal Mižigár wins the Aspen Central Europe Leadership Award 2019

9.12.2019 5:42
Romani community member Michal Mižigár from the Czech Republic is one of the first youth recipients of the Aspen Central Europe Leadership Award 2019. (PHOTO:  Ondřej Besperát)
Romani community member Michal Mižigár from the Czech Republic is one of the first youth recipients of the Aspen Central Europe Leadership Award 2019. (PHOTO: Ondřej Besperát)

Michal Mižigár, a history student at Central European University and Romani Studies scholar, has won the Aspen Central Europe Leadership Award, which was given by the Aspen Institute Central Europe to successful young leaders this year for the first time. Along with Do Thu Trang, who is the author of the Asijatka.cz blog, Mižigár was appreciated for his active advocacy of a responsible civic attitude, leadership, and his open-minded approach, which is aiding with the breakdown of prejudice in Central Europe.

The gala awards ceremony took place on 28 November on the occasion of the annual conference "Czechia, Where Are You Going?" (Kam kráčíš, Česko?). "Michal Mižigár, along with 30 other young people from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary attended a four-day Aspen Leadership Program in 2014. We have been in contact ever since and we are following, with great sympathy, how much he cares about the future of the Romani community not just in the Czech Republic, but in Central Europe. The awarding of this prize is meant to be an encouragement both to him and to everybody like him," the Executive Director of Aspen Institute Central Europe, Jiří Schneider, told news server Romea.cz.

"The Aspen Central Europe Leadership Award expresses appreciation for young people who are not afraid to set an example and who have strengthened their exposure to the public. In a unique way, they are contributing to improving society," the press release about the event quotes Schneider as saying.

Mižigár is from Písek and, despite living with a hearing impairment, he is the first member of the Romani community there to have graduated from high school. That opened the way for his university studies in the Czech Republic and abroad.

Today he is a role model for Romani youth, among whom he actively instills the desire to learn their own history, Romanes language and traditions, as well as the desire to educate themselves. The Aspen Institute Central Europe press release says that through his personal story, as well as through his open approach, he is aiding with the breakdown of prejudice and contributing to improving society in Central Europe.

Mižigár is active in the Romani community, not just in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also in the Balkans. After receiving the award he thanked his family, especially his mother: "As a Romani child with a congenital disability, educators wanted to send me to special school. My mother, however, did not give up, and for more than half a year she fought for me to be able to attend a normal primary school. Without that I could never have set off on my journey, which many good people have aided me with."

After receiving the award, Mižigár posted the following to his Facebook profile: "Originally I did not want to accept this award out of respect for the other people who are dedicated to activism in our republic and to combating discrimination against Romani people for a longer time, and who achieved results when I was still in primary school, people whom I really appreciate. I finally decided to accept this award with the awareness that it is not just for me. It is also for those who have collaborated with me or with whom I have collaborated: Ida Kelarová, Čhavorenge, the arts team at Miret, Slovo 21, Romea.cz, Open Society Fund Prague, the Romani youth in Písek in the informal group Roma Generation Písek, and other individuals both from the Czech Republic and abroad."

Another recipient of the award was Do Thu Trang, who has associated her professional career with marketing for big firms and is a graduate of the Faculty of Social Science at Charles University. In her free time, she is dedicated to writing her successful blog, Asijatka.cz, for which she won the Journalist Quail (Novinářská křepelka) award in 2016.

In her online commentaries, Trang familiarizes majority-society readers with the Vietnamese minority in imaginative, novel ways, contributing to mutual comprehension and strengthening an open, prosperous and especially a cohesive society. During her acceptance speech she also thanked her parents, among others, saying: "They moved 9 000 kilometers away so I could grow up in a free society and not be afraid to speak the truth."

Aspen Institute Central Europe is an independent platform for representatives of business, politics, the arts, sports and science to meet and discuss issues. The aim of the institute is to develop interdisciplinary collaboration and support young Central European leaders from different sectors in their personal and professional development.

voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Central European University v Budapešti, Občanská společnost, Ocenění, Soužití



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