Slovak Roma Spirit awards for 2016 go to antiracist campaigner and Mayor of the Luník IX housing estate
On Sunday, 27 November, the 2016 Roma Spirit Awards were given out to express appreciation for those individuals, municipalities and organizations that are helping improve the position, quality of life, and social conditions for the Romani community in Slovakia through their work. In 2016 there were 147 nominations in seven categories for the competition.
In the category of "Media" the award went to Irena Biháriová, chair of the "People against Racism" association (Lidé proti rasismu). Her winning project was an online campaign called "Let's Stop Spreading Hate Online", which rejected hateful attitudes against Romani people and attempted to debunk the myths being spread about them in online discourse in Slovakia.
"I accept this award with great humility because I am aware that the hateful attitudes toward Romani people are continually radicalizing. At the same time, I am very grateful for this prize, because it gives us hope that our work is being assessed and perceived as necessary," she told news server Romea.cz.
The campaign was created in response to radicalizing attitudes about national, religious and sexual groups online. Conspiracy theories and "revolutionary" online communities are also enjoying increasing online popularity.
Several Holocaust survivors and online news portals in Slovakia joined the campaign. Biháriová said that just one campaign is not enough.
She considers receiving the award to mean she is now obliged to push further when it comes to the topic of online hatred. "We must mobilize the 'critical minority' more, communicate with that community more, provide it with more tools for online activism," she said.
The "Good Deed of the Year" award went to the Mayor of the Luník IX housing estate in Košice, Marcel Šaňa, for his coordination of and engagement in aid provision for Romani families who were impacted by a fire in the settlement of Mašličkovo, an exceptional humanitarian activity and wave of solidarity. The painter and sculptor Miloš Rác from Povážská Bystrice took home the award in the new category of "Culture" for his artistic depictions of the life of the Romani community - the category expresses appreciation for individuals or organizations for their lifelong activity contributing to the positive development, preservation and presentation of Romani culture and identity.
In the category of "Non-state, Non-profit Organization" the Minorities' Community Center (Komunitní centrum menšin) in Veľký Krtíš was awarded for its activities related to administering apartment buildings and employing janitors for them from among the Romani tenant population. The prize was received in person by Adrián Berky and Janette Knapeková.
The awardwinner in the "City and Municipality" category was the town of Hlinné and its Mayor, Milena Naštová Hladová. In the category of "Individual", the prize was given to teacher Eva Gašparová.
The director of the Zefyrín Jimenéz Malla Private Gymnazium, Jana Tomová, received the prize in the category "Firm, Employer or Organization" for creating conditions for an inclusive approach to child-rearing and education there. The eighth annual Roma Spirit Awards were organized by the Association for Culture, Education and Communication (ACEC), by public broadcaster Slovak Radio and Television (RTVS), and by the Office of the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for the Romani Community.
Slovak President Andrej Kiska also gave his auspices to the event. The Roma Spirit project has been appreciated by the European Commission, which said in its analysis of national Roma integration strategies in the EU Member States that it is a project that contributes to eliminating prejudices and stereotypes about Romani people and promotes a positive image of the Romani community and culture.
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