One Billion Rising is a global campaign, dedicated to ending violence against women (cisgender, transgender, and those who hold fluid identities that are subject to gender-based violence) and girls, which takes place annually on and about 14 February. More than 200 countries have already joined this action. Belarus is one of them.
In 2016, this action was brought to Minsk, Belarus by Olga Gorbunova, the manager of the shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. Since then, Belarus has been dancing to end violence against women and girls every year.
On 9 November 2021, Olga was detained by Belarusian state authorities. It is unknown what charges are pressed against her, however, we assume that she was detained because of her women rights activism – helping women and children in situations of domestic violence and because of the exercise of her civil rights.
For 18 years, Olga Gorbunova worked in a shelter as a psychologist, a director, and then a manager of the shelter. Some of the unbearable stories that she happened to live and witness can be found on the website karta-nasiliya.by. They are difficult to read. Olga, however, always had the right words to support and comfort those who experienced pain. She also had to defend her clients and herself from the aggressors, pursuing the victims until the end: e.g. they besieged the shelter, wrote endless complaints to all authorities.
Olga has done a lot for women and children in Belarus for their safety – physical, psychological and legal. In an authoritarian country where mass repressions and persecution have been taking place since 1999 and intensified since 2020, Olya has been fighting against gender violence at the cost of her own freedom.
We ask you to dedicate this year’s action to the political prisoner, activist and human rights activist Olga Gorbunova. You can dance with a poster or a T-shirt with her image, you can tag us on Instagram – @free_volya, you can dance to a song translated into Belarusian. Without your support and attention, we will not be able to help Olya and other women political prisoners in Belarus. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
Please forward this letter to your colleagues and partners.
Read more about Belarusian Human Rights Activist Olga Gorbunova Detained for Fighting Against Gender-Based Violence
Olga Gorbunova has done a lot for women and children in Belarus. In an authoritarian country where mass repressions and persecution have been taking place since 1999 and have intensified since 2020, Gorbunova has been risking her freedom fighting against gender violence for over a decade.
Gorbunova is the former head of Radislava, a nongovernmental organization established in 2002 by and for survivors of gender-based violence. For 18 years, Gorbunova worked for the organization as a psychologist, director, and eventually manager, aiming to protect the physical, psychological, and legal safety of survivors. She also created Norm Cafe– a cultural and social space that provides training and employment for women. Though the cafe shut down due to security and economic reasons in March 2021, Gorbunova’s fight to end gender-based violence in Belarus had not slowed down– until recently.
On November 9, 2021, Belarusian state authorities broke into Gorbunova’s home and detained her for the alleged “organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them” (Article 342 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus). Her detainment came as a response to her involvement in women’s marches over the summer of 2020.
Gorbunova is currently being held in a detention center in Minsk where she has reported inhumane living/sleeping conditions and severe threats, including rape threats, from the correctional officers. In response, Gorbunova has begun a 10-day hunger strike to protest the unjust situation.
In line with One Billion Rising’s dedication to ending violence against all women (cisgender, transgender, and those who hold fluid identities that are subject to gender-based violence), girls and the planet, OBR Belarus is calling to activists worldwide to honor Olga Gorbunova through their risings.