Welcome and Remarks By
Human Rights & Democracy Programs Director, McCain Institute for International Leadership
A Conversation With
Director of the International Center for Civil Initiatives, Our House, Belarus
Nonresident Fellow, Atlantic Council
Sofya M. Orlosy
Senior Program Manager, Freedom House
Human Rights & Gender Activist, Ukraine
Founder & President, Free Russia Foundation
The recent protests in Belarus over the fraudulent election earlier this month, which saw longtime President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko retain power, are the largest in the country’s history but they have been met with violent repression and widespread arrests. One important aspect of the current pro-democracy demonstrations is that women have been at the forefront of the political opposition and leading the protests in the streets.
On the ground in Belarus, thousands of women organized to create human “Solidarity Chains” which have been replicated across Europe in Germany, Poland, Belgium, Ukraine, and Russia. Politically, women are also at the forefront of the revolution as the leading opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was forced to join the race after her husband, the original candidate was arrested and had his bid for office rejected by Belarusan authorities. Following the election, she was forced to flee the country and remains in refuge in neighboring Lithuania.
Lukashenko is regularly referred to as Europe’s last dictator but he has recently lost support from many of his historic allies including the Kremlin. Most importantly, he has completely lost the support of the people of Belarus who have called for his resignation since the August 9 election. Hundreds of thousands in all corners of Belarus have joined the movement calling for an end to police brutality against protesters and a change in the presidency.
Please join us to hear Natalia Arno, Melinda Haring, Olena Suslova and Olga Karatch discuss how women shaped the revolution, how the international community and U.S. policy can support their efforts, and lessons learned from other regional WPS efforts for Belarus.
Olga Karatch is a leader of an NGO from Belarus called ‘Our House’ from Belarus. ‘Our House’ works locally in 23 provincial towns of Belarus in four main areas: a) work with the elected deputies to ensure accountability and the quality of their work, b) work with public officials/ civil servants to ensure transparency and the rule of law as guiding principles of their work, and c) support and protection of socially and politically active women, human rights defenders, and independent journalists (in co-operation with a women’s NGO ‘Adliga: Women for Full Citizenship”) d) protection of children’s rights including the rights of children prisoners in Belarus. She also did a lot of monitoring related to human rights and power abuse by Lukashenko.
Hanna Liubakova is a freelance journalist and researcher from Belarus. She is currently a journalist with Outriders, an international multimedia platform that produces in-depth multimedia and interactive reporting and focuses on solutions journalism. She also works as a journalism trainer and mentor. She started her career at the only independent Belarusian TV channel where she worked as a correspondent and TV presenter. Hanna has reported from various countries and regions, including Belgium, UK, Poland, France, and Chechnya. She was a recipient of the Václav Havel Journalism Fellowship at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Czechia, as well as a World Press Institute Fellowship in the United States. Hanna received a degree in Art History from The Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland in 2010 and a Master of Art with distinction in International Journalism from Brunel University in London in 2017. She was awarded the Peter Caws Prize for a best postgraduate dissertation.
Sofya Orlosky is a senior program manager at Freedom House, where she leads strategy for program engagement and advocacy in Europe and Eurasia with a particular focus on closed societies. She has steered program design, needs assessment, and capacity-building activities for civil society in over forty projects across the Europe and Eurasia region. Prior to joining Freedom House, she was based in Moscow, with various Russian NGOs and later with NDI. Follow her on Twitter @smorlosky
Olena Suslova is a human rights, gender activist, and researcher with more than 30 years of experience. She has worked in Ukraine as well as countries of the former Soviet Union as a short-term expert and trainer on gender, peace culture, conflict resolution, etc. She founded an NGO, the Women’s Information Consultative Center, in 1995. She published more than 50 books, research articles, and manuals on gender issues.
Natalia Arno is the founder and president of the Free Russia Foundation, a nonprofit and nonpartisan U.S.-based nongovernmental organization that informs U.S. policymakers on events in Russia in real-time and supports the formulation of an effective and sustainable Russian policy in the U.S. Prior to founding the Free Russia Foundation, Natalia worked for the International Republican Institute for ten years including six years as IRI Russia Country Director. In December 2009 Natalia represented Russia in the World Summit of Women Leaders in Geneva, Switzerland.