The Slovenia Times

Activist honoured with Global Leadership award

Activist Nika Kovač speaks to the press at the launch of the My Voice, My Choice campaign. Photo: Bor Slana/STA

Nika Kovač, the head of a women's rights NGO, who is credited with bringing the MeToo movement to Slovenia, has received a Vital Voices Global Leadership award, given out by an organisation co-founded by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Kovač accepted the honour from US activist Tarana Burke, who started the MeToo movement in the mid-2000s.

Addressing the awards ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, US, on 30 May, Burke noted Kovač helms the 8 March Institute, "which uses storytelling to inspire solidarity and push for social change".

The American activist elicited an applause when she said that Kovač's get-out-the-vote campaign helped unseat Slovenia's far-right prime minister in what was a reference to the 2020-22 government of Janez Janša.

"She's built campaigns that have changed both laws and politics, advancing gender equality, expanding LGBTQ+ protections and safeguarding free access to public resources," Burke said before handing the award to the Slovenian.

Wearing a pair of watermelon earnings in a sign of solidarity with Palestine, Kovač said it was hard to accept this award at a time when the far right is on the rise in Europe, Georgia's government adopted a law to silence critical voices, 20 million women in Europe, let alone elsewhere, do not have access to free abortion, and more than 35,000 Palestinians were "brutally killed".

The 31-year-old told the audience: "This award does not belong to me, this award belongs to a group of my best friends, to my Slovenian team and also my international team, and to every single voice that is loud, even when it is hard or awkward, and is doing the right thing."

Together people can bring about change, she underscored, also expressing support for "the brave students in American universities who are speaking up against genocide". She concluded the acceptance speech: "And I can promise you one thing - we won't stop."

Kovač founded the 8 March Institute in 2016 together with LGBTQ+ rights activist Simon Maljevac, who is now serving as a minister in charge of housing and long-term care. The organisation has been addressing gender and economic inequalities, and among its victories has been the legal redefinion of rape in Slovenia that introduced a "yes-means-yes" law.

She coordinated two referendum campaigns: one against water privatisation and pollution in 2021 and the other in favour of the depoliticisation of the public broadcaster in 2022. Her team celebrated the outcomes of both of them. Her get-out-the-vote campaign for the 2022 general election helped push the turnout to 71%.

She is currently coordinating an EU-wide campaign dubbed My Voice, My Choice trying to get one million signatures in support of a motion to ensure free and accessible abortion across the bloc.

The Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards honour international women leaders in the fields of human rights, economic empowerment, or political reform. They are given out annually by the Vital Voices Global Partnership, an NGO that was founded in the late 1990s by a group of women, including Clinton, who was in attendance at the awards ceremony.


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