Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarusian Democratic Leader, to receive 2023 NATO PA “Women for Peace and Security” Award

14 September 2023

The Selection Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) voted to bestow the 2023 “Women for Peace and Security” Award to Ms Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces and head of the country’s United Transition Cabinet. 

“Ms Tsikhanouskaya's personal story serves as a testament to the transformative power of women's leadership in promoting peace and security”, said Assembly President Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam (France) following her selection. “In the face of immense adversity, she selflessly and bravely rose to head the opposition against Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime. Her courage is a source of inspiration for women and men alike, in Belarus and beyond, who strive to challenge oppressive regimes and stand up for democracy.” 

“As an example of a principled and determined woman leading her country towards a more democratic future, Ms Tsikhanouskaya embodies the importance of women’s equal participation in decision-making processes which lies at the heart of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda”, President Garriaud-Maylam added. 

“Through this award, the Assembly voices its profound admiration and respect for the efforts and sacrifices that Ms Tsikhanouskaya makes every day to lead Belarus and its people in their peaceful struggle against tyranny. Her struggle reminds us that democracy should never be taken for granted and that all our nations have a responsibility to defend democracy and counter the rise of authoritarianism.”

"Too often, women are overlooked in politics. I believe that this is a profound mistake”, said Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. “The inclusion of more women in political roles undoubtedly results in greater empathy, humanity, and wisdom in decision-making. It will mean more peace and security worldwide. Dictators and tyrants consistently underestimate the power of women. In my country, Belarus, we have seen the incredible courage, resilience, and determination of women. I am proud to accept the 'Women for Peace and Security Award' on behalf of the brave women of Belarus. My deepest thanks go to NATO PA for their steadfast support and for reinforcing the message that women are not only victims of conflict but crucial actors in shaping a safer and more prosperous world for all of us."

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is the leader of the democratic forces of Belarus. She ran against Alexander Lukashenko in the 2020 Belarusian presidential election as the main opposition candidate, replacing her husband who had been illegally jailed by the regime. The regime has sentenced her in absentia to a 15-year jail term in retaliation for her non-violent political activities. 

The Selection Committee is composed of the Assembly’s Bureau and Irene Fellin, the Special Representative of the NATO Secretary General for Women, Peace and Security. Ms Tsikhanouskaya was nominated by Njáll Trausti Friðbertsson on behalf of the Icelandic delegation to the NATO PA, which he leads. 

Beside Ms Tsikhanouskaya’s, the Selection Committee received three other nominations of women who share a deep commitment to the equal participation of women and men in the field of peace and security, the protection of women in conflict situations and/or the mainstreaming of women's needs and perspectives into relief and recovery initiatives in post-conflict countries. 

The NATO PA has a long-standing commitment to the principle that women and men are equal partners in the pursuit of peace and security. In 2021, the Assembly’s Standing Committee created a “Women for Peace and Security” Award to honour a woman who has made a particular contribution to the promotion and implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. The two previous winners are Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine.

Read also