The Cantonal Agenda of Women from Desamparados (ACAMUDE) won the European Union Gender Equality Prize on Thursday.
ACAMUDE focuses on helping women from low-income communities and women with disabilities. They focus on Desamparados, a city on the southeastern outskirts of San José.
They visit women in communal spaces or their homes and teach skills that help them in the professional world, including weekly courses in how to maintain and repair a computer, as well as in human resource management. The organization has been working for the last 22 years and has helped more than 35,000 women from poor backgrounds.
Beatriz Castro, director of ACAMUDE, accepted the award on behalf of the organization.
“We work for equality and fairness so that these women find a space and a voice, despite their poverty, despite the fact that they come from violent situations,” Castro said. “The fight for gender fairness and equality is nothing other than the search for justice.”
The prize recognizes a person or group of people who’ve made an impact in the field of women’s rights.
The prize, Castro said, represented “a recognition of 25 years of work.”
The award, a piece of art by Costa Rican artist Alejandro Rambar, was given during a ceremony at British ambassador Ross Denny’s home in San José.
Rambar’s piece of art reflects his interest in sexual diversity and gender. His piece depicts two figures, one feminine, one masculine, standing back-to-back, which promotes a message of gender equality. The figures have stars interlaced in their hair as an allusion to the EU flag.
Pelayo Castro Zuzuárregui, the EU ambassador in Costa Rica, spoke about diversity in the European Union and the effort required to achieve gender equality.
Castro Zuzuárregui said the EU has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and that several top EU positions are occupied by women. But the focus that night was on small groups of people looking to make a change in their communities.
“With the awarding of this prize today, we continue to correct the most important unfinished task in the history of humanity: equality between women and men,” Castro Zuzuárregui said. “We are focusing on the community organizations that don’t make in the headlines.
A variety of not-for-profit organizations attended the event, including the company Strategic Actions for Human Rights (ACCEDER), a human rights organization dedicated to the prevention and eradication of violence and discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.
“The job that we do day by day is hardly ever recognized in Costa Rica so it basically gave us a chance to put our work forwards and let it speak to us and gain recognition from the international community,” said Laura Valenciano Arrieta, an activist and member of ACCEDER. “It legitimizes and empowers the work we do.”
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