The White Ribbon Award
Since 2010 the Centre for Women’s Rights, together with Jolanta Kwasniewska’s foundation “Communication without barriers”, have been working on a shared project: the White Ribbon Award.
The aim of the project is to highlight and praise the efforts of any man who has made a real and powerful contribution to the women's movement in Poland. The White Ribbon Award is designed for men working for aid institutions, members of the uniformed services as well as private individuals supporting victims of abuse in any way.
Beginning as a demonstration of respect following the murder of fourteen women by an anti-feminist, the movement grew to symbolise solidarity amongst men against misogynistic violence. This expansion saw over one hundred thousand men and boys publicly demonstrating their opposition to violence against women by donning a symbol of purity – the white ribbon. Standing together, their message was this: “I pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.” This powerful gesture resonated around the world, swiftly gaining in popularity. Now, men and women are proudly pinning white ribbons to their chests and identifying with victims of abuse across Poland. If you want to learn more or get involved in the White Ribbon Foundation, click here to visit their website
Open to any and all, applications were received by victims of abuse and NGO workers alike, alongside any other person willing to vouch for the merits of a candidate.
The concept of an award began with two policemen – Kazimierz Walijewski and Tomasz Pietrzak. For many years, these two men had been searching for new and unconventional solutions to domestic violence while also supporting policemen and civilians struggling with the issue: “There are many people around us who not only help prevent violence but also provide active help to sufferers of abuse. We want to present them to the world and hold them up as an example to other men.”
The Third Annual Award Ceremony of the Contest was held on the 29th November 2012, beginning with a discussion panel - “Men counteracting economic violence against women”, organized by the Centre for Women’s Rights.
The candidates for the White Ribbon were then honoured by the Contest Capitule, comprised of the First Lady Jolanta Kwaśniewska, Urszula Nowakowska, Krystyna Kofta, Nina Kowalewska–Motlik, Elżbieta Pomaska, Irena Santor, Bożena Toeplitz. They were joined by one of the founders of the award - Kazimierz Walijewski.
The Capitule awarded honours across eight categories:
Justice – Legal Aid: Jarosław Polanowski
Justice: Enforcement and Prosecution: Jarosław Barski
Assistance Institutions and Organizations: Marek Prejzner
Public Institutions: Grzegorz Obłękowski
Employers/Sponsors: Ryszard Kowalski
Public Figure: Krystian Legierski
Private Individual: Dr Tomasz Skalski
Media: Uwaga!TVN! (Attention!TVN)
Alongside the eight main categories, the Contest Capitule also decided to honour Mr Lee.A.Feinstein with a Special Distinction for his tenure as US Ambassador in Poland from 2009-2012. Mr. Feinstein was especially dedicated to the women's movement, a commitment worthy of merit.
Jaroslaw Polanowski receives his award at the Third Annual White Ribbon Awards.
Read on for the candidates stories and achievements.
Justice: Legal Aid
Jarosław Polanowski is an outstanding figure in the fight against domestic violence. For years, Mr. Polanowski has been working toward bringing equality to disadvantaged women by offering legal training and counsel.
His application describes a truly extraordinary and committed individual:
“There is little more to say than that I feel genuinely lucky to have benefited from his expertise, his commitment and his compassion for the individuals he supports. Awarding Jarosław Polanowski with the White Ribbon Award is not only to acknowledge his huge contribution but also to give public platform to an individual who has been so much more than merely a lawyer to countless families in dire need of support. If there were more people like Mr Polanowski, violence would only be a marginal phenomenon.”
Justice: Enforcement and Prosecution
Jarosław Barski is a policeman and a lawyer providing legal advice and information for victims of crime. He is committed to the fight against discrimination and has worked alongside organisations such as the Local Department of the Committee for the Protection Of Children's Rights in Zielona Góra. He prioritizes respect for the victims of misogynistic crime, both on the part of the victim and those assisting her.
His application paints the portrait of a local hero with limitless energy: “Jarosław is an intelligent, empathetic and patient man. He is never less than fully committed and attentive, giving his full attention to those in need. He is often seen working over-time, also frequently giving up what he free time he has to provide assistance in any way he can. In short, we need men like him: policemen with a human face and lawyers who forget to take their watches with them.”
Assistance Institutions and Organizations
Marek Prejzner works for the Institute of Violence Prevention in Warsaw. Marek has been fighting against domestic violence for 12 years, bringing expertise gained in the United States where he worked closely with perpetrators and victims alike. He has also been working with new contribuotrs and volunteers, providing training in psychology and support with difficult cases.
His application form reads: “I know no man like Marek. A man who, while so modest, is so engaged in all areas of the fight against discrimination. Simply put, if there were no Marek Prejzner, there would be no system of working with the perpetrators in Poland.”
Grzegorz Obłękowski has held the positon of Deputy Mayor of Żyrardów since 2006. One of his key policy concerns has been the struggle against domestic violence. Aside from his official duties, he has been providing direct assistance to victims and pushing to fond long term solutions to the culture of abuse. Mr. Obłękowski also works alongside organizations such as the Association of Women with Oncological Problems and the Żyrardów Women Forum (the “Amazons”).
His application form praises his contributions both in office and out:
“We could call Mr. Grzegorz “the saviour” of single mothers and victims of domestic violence. All such people can count on his help. We need people who are working in state institutions who support victims in both their professional and private lives.”
Ryszard Kowalski is an employer committed to supporting female employees undergoing personal difficulties. He has assisted employees facing eviction or dealing with bailiffs by covering their debts for unpaid rent. He has been particularly supportive toward mothers dealing with substance-dependent partners.
His application sums up variety of ways in which Ryszard supports the cause against discrimination:
“There are many people engaged in providing financial help to others, but Ryszard not only offers financial support but personally participates in direct action to help those in need. In doing this, he sets a powerful example to others.”
Krystian Legierski is a lawyer working for the Lambada Association as well as a businessman dealing with protection of minorities' rights. He also lectures on Gender Studies at the University of Warsaw and was the cofounder of the Senate law on the registration of partnership relations.
His application highlights his real, pragmatic contributions to the difficulties experienced by women on the property market:
“He was the only man who helped me in dealing with the town council and other institutions to find and secure an apartment for myself. He was totally committed in each case.”
Dr Tomasz Skalski is a doctor of sociology, a philosopher, trainer of the personal and professional development as well as an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology of Economy and Organization of the Silesian University. .
Dr. Skalski has fought for female autonomy by providing the support and skills to foster self-awareness and self-sufficiency, based on nurturing core values while aiming for practical goals. Fighting against social stereotypes, his work aims to demonstrate that Polish women don't have to be “multiactive” to achieve fulfilment and happiness in their lives. His programme aims to help women persevere through what can seem like the impossible: the demands of being a woman in modern Poland.
Uwaga!TVN! (Attention!TVN) is a television series focussed around social problems, particularly women's issues. While centred around the personal problems and conflicts of realistic characters, we also see them engaging in the fight for social justice. Their show asks the toughest question: how can we change things? The unflinching realism of Uwaga!TVN works to inform and shape public opinion about injustice, giving prominence to the issue of violence against women. Using the power of narrative to show that real change is possible, the media can do so much to express that violence against women cannot continue. Uwaga!TVN! is, undoubtedly, at the forefront of this movement.
Translated by Ewelina Szeratics
Edited by Rob Anderson