Tackling burnout among defenders in Ukraine

Identifying burnout at work as “the scourge of the 21st century”, two member organisations of Human Rights House Tbilisi and Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv developed a programme for human rights defenders offering guidelines and best practices to prevent and recover from burnout.

Since the creation of the programme, 12 human rights defenders have become trainers working on the issue. These trainers provided over 250 people with insight and techniques in managing burnout in Ukraine.


To promote the issue of burnout, AHALAR produced a video providing information.

“[Burnout] is becoming increasingly urgent among employees of the third sector[…] We need to devote more time to this issue and to notice burnout in ourselves”

Serhiy Burov, director of Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv.

Professional fatigue and burnout among human rights defenders have become a common phenomenon in Ukraine, particularly following five years of on-going conflict in the Eastern part of the country and the continued occupation of the Crimean peninsula.

“Our experience has shown that the topic is very much in demand and it is necessary to continue informing human rights defenders. We are planning to conduct an annual retreat for the staff and volunteers of the Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv, as well as the member organisations. In 2020, during the summer annual human rights festival, we are planning to devote three days to the topic of burnout prevention”, Wika Solonitsyna, Project Manager and Co-founder of Center Ahalar.

GCRT, one of the designers of the programme, has extensive experience working with traumatic stress, large- group trauma, as well as war-stricken, and post-war society.

The organisations, AHALAR and GCRT created manuals and course materials for trainers. These manuals outline how to maintain working capacity and developing resilience skills in order to meet the demanding nature of human rights work. These manuals are available in English, Russian, Ukrainian and Georgian.

The manuals provide a comprehensive variety of information on burnout prevention and training skills for people working in the human rights field. The manual consists of two parts: “Practical guidelines for human rights workers, volunteers and activists” and “Stay active without burnout”. The second manual is aimed at people who want to help themselves, as well as for individual and group work.

Of the 16 defenders who took part in the training and consultations from December 2018 – September 2019, 12 defenders are working as trainers on the issue today.  The participants have been empowered to further develop 8 training programmes, which have reached out to over 250 people all over Ukraine.


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