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Volha Harbunova


Volha Harbunova is a Belarusian woman human rights defender who has dedicated herself to fighting for the protection of women and children against gender based violence in Belarus. She is the former head of the non-governmental organisation Radislava, which was established in 2002 by survivors of gender-based violence to help and offer support to women who are suffering from domestic and gender-based violence.

At Radislava, Volha worked for 18 years as a psychologist, director, and manager, aiming to protect the physical, psychological, and legal safety of survivors. Volha has consistently worked to protect women and girls at the risk of her own personal freedom and in spite of the hostile culture against HRDs in Belarus. In 2016, Volha brought One Billion Rising- a global campaign dedicated to ending violence against women and girls (cisgender, transgender, and those who hold fluid identities that are subject to gender-based violence) - to Belarus. Volha also created the social enterprise called Norm Cafe, which is an inclusive and safe cultural and social space that provides training and employment for women. Profits made from Norm Cafe was planned to be spent on building a women’s shelter. However, in March 2021, Norm Cafe shut down due to security and economic reasons.

In November 2021, Volha was arrested in Minsk in relation to her alleged involvement in organising marches that were supporting women’s rights in the summer of 2020. It was reported that she was on Belarusian authorites’ list of detainees considered as “inclined to extremism and other destructive actions”. Volha is currently detained in the Okrestina detention centre in Minsk.

The environment for the work of human rights defenders (HRDs) in Belarus has continuously deteriorated since an authoritarian political regime was established there in 1994. HRDs are systematically subjected to intimidation and harassment, including judicial harassment, restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly, and movement, as well as arbitrary detention and conviction, ill-treatment and defamation, searches of offices and personal belongings, and confiscations of equipment. The widespread impunity of law enforcement officers contributes to even further human rights violations and retaliations against HRDs.