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Angela Merkel wins gender equality prize

December 14, 2017

Germany's chancellor has been named the inaugural winner of an international gender equality award created by the Finnish government. The jury chose Merkel because of her "commitment to women and girls globally."

Angela Merkel and Juha Sipila
Image: Reuters/V.Mayo

Finland's prime minister, Juha Sipila, presented Chancellor Angela Merkel with the prize on the sidelines of an EU leaders' summit in Brussels on Thursday.

"Chancellor Angela Merkel has become one of the world's most influential people and is an example to many women and girls," he said.

"Ours was the first nation in the world to grant women full political rights in 1906. Through this prize, we want to strengthen appreciation for gender equality in other countries around the world too."

Finland launched the International Gender Equality Prize — worth €150,000 ($176,800) — in 2017 to mark 100 years since the country's independence.

A statement from the Finnish government said Merkel was chosen as the inaugural recipient because of her "long-standing work as a defender of human dignity and human rights and commitment to women and girls globally."

The jury recognized her efforts to bring "gender equality to the agenda of world leaders at summit meetings" and to "improve the rights and opportunities of women especially in developing countries."

"By breaking through the glass ceiling, Merkel has shown that women can rise to the top ranks of society," the statement said.

Merkel, Germany's first female leader, has served as chancellor since 2005. She is widely considered to be the world's most powerful woman.

Merkel said she was honored to receive the award, and would continue to work "for promoting gender equality," adding that "there is still a lot to be done."

The prize money won't go to Merkel herself. Rather, she can assign it to a cause that strengthens the position of women and girls. The chancellor's chosen cause will be announced at a high-level seminar on gender equality in Tampere, southern Finland, in early 2018.