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Women for Women International to Honor Dr. Denis Mukwege

“Men must stand shoulder to shoulder with women. Men have a responsibility to speak out in their own communities for the women they love,” says Dr. Denis Mukwege, gynecological surgeon and outspoken advocate against sexual violence from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

It is his courage to speak out against rape and other forms of violence against women and girls in the DRC, despite an assassination attempt and continuing threats against his life, that has earned Dr. Mukwege worldwide recognition. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seven times and received European Union’s 2014 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. And tonight Women for Women International is proud to honor Dr. Mukwege with the Champion of Peace Award at our Annual Gala for his holistic approach to healing women and addressing the root causes of violence by calling for justice and accountability.

Sr. Denis Mukwege

In 1999, Dr. Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital in response to the deteriorating health care opportunities for women caused by more than two decades of armed conflict in the DRC. The conflict, known as the longest running and the deadliest in modern African history, affected more than 50 million Congolese. Millions of women and girls faced mass rape during the conflict and still continue suffer the consequences of instability, including widespread sexual violence.

In the face of such grave atrocities against women, Dr. Mukwege has worked tirelessly and courageously for women survivors of rape and sexual violence in his country. With the support of more than 370 staff, Dr. Mukwege has provided care to 40,000 women, including 20,000 survivors of sexual violence who receive health services at no cost at the hospital.

Dr. Mukwege has expanded the work of Panzi Hospital to create a safe space for women to heal emotionally, create networks of support, and find new strength to rebuild their lives grow. This safe haven has been life-saving and empowering for survivors of violence who are often stigmatized and abandoned by their families.

“I have never seen women as strong as the women who have come out from Panzi Hospital and insist on their rights and insist on getting what they need to rebuild their lives,” says Dr. Mukwege.

Panzi Hospital and Women for Women International share a similar approach to helping women survivors of war and sexual violence, strengthening both their economic empowerment and ability to stand up for their rights and enabling them to be agents of change.

Dr. Mukwege has not only worked on the ground to save the lives of survivors of sexual violence, but is also an outspoken global advocate speaking out against rape and gender-based violence. He has taken his message to the United Nations and other international platforms to decry rape and advocate for justice. In addition, Dr. Mukwege has been a strong force in recruiting men in the fight against gender-based violence around the world, urging them to use their voices to advocate for change.

“…Those who rape are men, but not all men are rapists, not all men are evil. Many men do a lot for women. Our problem is that although only a minority of men rape, the majority does not denounce,” Dr. Mukwege says.

“We are proud to honor Dr. Denis Mukwege both for his work to provide medical treatment for survivors of rape at his Panzi Hospital in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and to galvanize global action to end sexual violence in conflict,” says Jennifer L. Windsor, former Chief Executive Officer of WfWI.

>> Learn more about our work in the DRC.