Outstanding education unionists receive the Kounka Damianova Award

published 2 August 2022 updated 1 September 2022

The Kounka Damianova Award was given to Borka Visnic of the Teachers Union of Serbia (TUS) and Dorota Obidniak of the Polish Związek Nauczycielstwa Polskiego (ZNP) during the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) Special conference held from 5-6 July, in Liège, Belgium.

The award is named after Kounka Damianova who led the International Department of the Syndicat des Enseignants Bulgares (Bulgarian Teachers’ Union, SEB), ETUCE’s member organisation, for many years, was the Chair of ETUCE’s Standing Committee for Equality and a Vice-President of ETUCE.

It is given for special engagement using a new and innovative approach; a long-standing and continuous engagement in union work in - among other areas - the following fields: gender equality and women’s rights, integration and social inclusion, democratic citizenship, combating extremism, supporting young trade unionists, capacity-building of trade unions; exchanges, cooperation and cross-border engagement, peace education, etc. It also includes having a successful initiative that is ongoing with a sustainable approach and reaching out to unions in the involved countries.

While Borka Visnic was not able to attend the award ceremony, Dorota Obidniak acknowledged that “it is a great honour and great joy”; and emphasised that “this award is an award for a project of which I have had the privilege of being the custodian and executor since 2008”.

I try only to fulfil the provisions of the declaration signed in 2008 by representatives of the Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft/Germany, the Israel Teachers’ Union/Israel, ZNP and NSZZ Solidarność Oświatowa/Poland in Krakow, she said. The project consists in a joint commemoration of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day established by the UN.

“The Kounka Damianova Award is an award for projects, not so much for people, but for events that move and bring awareness to a certain truth,” Obidniak also stressed.

This award is especially valuable to me, she added, because it is named after Kounka Damianova, “my mentor and friend. She encouraged me to work in the women's committee and equality group and comforted me that I would be able to do well. During our last conversation in Ottawa after the Education International’s 7th Word Congress, we planned a joint seminar on the gender backlash and the origins of the anti-gender campaign; you know that I keep coming back to this idea, and I hope that thanks to the wonderful colleagues and partners at ETUCE, one day, I will realise it.”

“I am very happy that I can stand in front of you and share this honourable award with my friend, the fantastic activist from Serbia, Borka Visnic,” she concluded.