Volha Harbunova honored with the International Women of Courage Award

The U.S. Department of State announced 2024 International Women of Courage Award recipients. One of them is Volha Harbunova, a representative of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarusian democratic forces. On March 4, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and First Lady Jill Biden hosted the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards ceremony at the White House.

Now in its 18th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes women from around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equity and equality, and the empowerment of women and girls, in all their diversity – often at great personal risk and sacrifice. Since March 2007, the Department of State has recognized more than 190 women from 90 countries with the IWOC Award.

“Volha Harbunova is a Belarusian human rights defender who has dedicated her life to advocating for the rights of women, children, the LGBTQI+ community, and other marginalized groups in Belarus. In the wake of the fraudulent 2020 elections in Belarus, Harbunova was imprisoned by the Lukashenko regime after organizing women’s marches and, while in prison, suffered psychological torture from the authorities and death threats for helping abused women.

After her release, Harbunova fled Belarus, certain of continued repression, and in exile in Lithuania joined the cabinet of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, leader of the Belarusian democratic movement. As the Representative for Social Issues, her mandate includes advocating for the release of political prisoners, providing support to former political prisoners and their families, and promoting psychosocial support to the Belarusian community in exile.

As former head of the NGO Radislava, which was ultimately shuttered by the Lukashenko regime, Harbunova was a pioneering activist in support of victims of domestic violence and for twenty years operated one of the few shelters for children and women in Belarus,” this is what is said about Volha in the Department of State’s statement.

Other 2024 awardees are:

  • Benafsha Yaqoobi — an attorney and a human rights activist from Afghanistan;
  • Fawzia Karim Firoze — a Bangladeshi Supreme Court advocate who has fought for the rights of marginalized groups for more than three decades;
  • Ajna Jusić — a psychologist and a feminist from Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, who currently resides in Sarajevo;
  • Myintzu Win — a criminal defense lawyer, who champions the rights of marginalized communities in Burma;
  • Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello — a Cuban political dissident and leading proponent of human rights and religious freedom in Cuba;
  • Fátima Corozo — a tireless, dedicated community leader and youth advocate in Esmeraldas, Ecuador’s most violent city;
  • Fatou Baldeh — a Gambian human rights activist advocating for a ban on female genital mutilation and cutting;
  • Fariba Balouch — an Iranian human rights activist, who speaks out about women’s rights and the human rights crisis in Sistan and Baluchistan;
  • Rina Gonoi — a Japanese human rights activist campaigning against sexual harassment and abuse;
  • Rabha El Haymar — a Moroccan human rights activist, who raises awareness about the plight of mothers of undocumented children;
  • Agather Atuhaire — a journalist, lawyer and social justice activist who advocates for human rights, public accountability, and the rule of law in Uganda.

Following the IWOC ceremony, the awardees participated in an in-person International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and additional programming in Los Angeles, during which they discussed with American counterparts on strategies and ideas to empower women and girls around the globe.

Back to top button