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Cablegate: Latvia's Woman of Courage Nominee 2008

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DE RUEHRA #0787 2951337
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O 221337Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4453

UNCLAS RIGA 000787

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM KPAO KWMN LG
SUBJECT: Latvia's Woman of Courage Nominee 2008

REF: STATE 126072

1. Post's nominee for the International Woman of Courage Award is
Anita Ratkevica, social worker and founder of the NGO women's
support club "Harmonija." Ms. Ratkevica is pleased to be nominated
for the award.
Biographical data requested in reftel is below.


A. Full Name: Anita Ratkevica
B. Job Title: Social Worker, Skaista Municipality
C: Date of Birth: June 25, 1959
D: Country of Birth: Latvia
E: Citizenship: Latvian
F: Telephone: (371) 2 6388637
G: Address: Kraslavas rajons, Skaistas pagasts, "TeneismuiQa", LV-
5671
H: Email: Sac2@inbox.lv
I: Passport Number:

2. Ms. Ratkevica is an extraordinary woman in extraordinary
circumstances. To understand the importance of her work, it is
necessary to grasp the desperation of the region in which she works.
In Latvian "Skaista" means beautiful. But with unemployment rates of
15.4% and a shrinking youth population lost to the promise of
employment abroad, it is evident that the future of this rural
region is not so lovely. Infrastructure challenges such as poor road
conditions, (which, during some seasons, impede most travel), few
employers, and the inability of the region to meet the criteria to
obtain EU funding create a vicious cycle which has the potential to
spiral the remaining population into a hopeless void. This is Ms.
Ratkevica's world. This is where "Hamonija" was born.

3. The history of the NGO "Harmonija" spans over ten years of
societal change and culture shift in the developing nation of
Latvia. In 1996 Ms. Ratkevica in a group from Skaista participated
in a national project called "Raising family's self-organizational
capacity through the development of self-esteem and social
security." That participation sparked a momentum which culminated
Ms. Ratkevica's establishment of the women-focused NGO "Harmonija"
in 1998. In 2001 the NGO Skaista's Support Center was established.
Seven years later, the aim of the organization is to "develop the
rural environment, raise self-organization skills and the capacity
of rural residents through development of self-esteem and social
security."

4. Ms. Ratkevica's background is education. She worked for 15 years
as a teacher in kindergarten and elementary schools, then became
head of the Skaista council's social service. As Ms. Ratkevica
stated, "In my work I had to meet with socially inactive people who
had to go through various difficult situations in their daily lives.
The desire to help these people motivated me to come up with ...
initiatives and involve people in these activities. It is good if a
financial support is provided to these people, however, that is not
enough. My biggest desire is that people who live in rural areas
would ... realize that each of them is needed and unique with
his/her background and life vision." According to Skaista City
Council head Gundega Grisane, Ratkevica's real gif is "in
motivating and encouraging other women, especially single mothers
... to look at life from a new perspective."

5. Ms. Ratkevica and the Center's programs run the spectrum of
support, from training women in handicrafts and how to start their
own businesses from home, to an after school childcare center. With
each carefully-planned activity and program, this rural area sees
development that brings hope to an often forgotten segment of
society. To work with people in this area and persist in desperate
times makes Ms. Ratkevica a true woman of courage.

SELDOWITZ

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