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Oksana Gorbunova

Human Rights Award, 2002

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Focus Areas

Human Trafficking

Oksana Gorbunova is a leading human rights advocate who has dedicated much of her life to combating the trafficking of women and children in the Ukraine, Eastern Europe and throughout much of the world. Oksana has worked tirelessly to lobby her government to pass landmark anti-trafficking legislation and has helped others worldwide to draw attention to and struggle against violations of human rights. She previously led La Strada in Ukraine, one of the leading grassroots groups committed to fighting the scourge of trafficking. Currently, Oksana works with the International Organization for Migration.

A mathematician by training, Oksana turned her attention to trafficking during her tenure at the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Oksana has personally escorted trafficked women back to their families, undeterred by threats from the criminal organizations responsible for the crime. When she couldn’ t find anyone in Ukraine to help rescue seven students who were being held as sex slaves in Montenegro, Oksana looked abroad for help. The students were rescued with help from international organizations, U.S. Representative Chris Smith, and the government of Montenegro. Oksana then lobbied her government to pass the first law outlawing trafficking and providing criminal penalties for perpetrators. She also testified before the U.S. House of Representatives in favor of passage of the groundbreaking U.S. anti-trafficking law passed in 2000.