Dr. Denis Mukwege Denounces ANC’s Efforts to Leave the International Criminal Court

Dr. Denis Mukwege Denounces ANC’s Efforts to Leave the International Criminal Court

Receiving Women for Women International’s Champion of Peace Award, Dr. Mukwege called for an end to impunity for sexual violence around the world and encouraged men to stand with women in the fight for basic, fundamental rights.

November 16, 2015, Washington, D.C. -- Speaking at the Women for Women International (WfWI) 2015 Gala, Dr. Denis Mukwege, award-winning human rights advocate and founder of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, denounced efforts in South Africa to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“The recent announcement from South Africa’s African National Congress party wishes to withdraw [their nation] out of the ICC – disregarding and violating all that Nelson Mandela fought for,” said Dr. Mukwege, arguing that weakening the ICC promotes a culture of impunity for atrocities.

Citing increased violence in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, across the continent of Africa, and around the world, Dr. Mukwege argued that the most vulnerable populations during conflict need the world to commit to justice and accountability and show that it will not tolerate mass crimes. This is why, he argued, it is important to strengthen the ICC.

“To weaken the ICC is to vote in favor of impunity, opening the door to more violence,” Dr. Mukwege said.

>>Read Dr. Mukwege's full speech at the Women for Women International Annual Gala<<

The gynecological surgeon and Nobel Peace Prize nominee was speaking to an audience of more than 450 WfWI supporters who had joined the organization in recognizing Dr. Mukwege with the Champion of Peace Award for his work healing and advocating for women survivors of sexual violence in the DRC.

Dr. Mukwege’s work with women who have faced mass rapes and widespread gender-based violence during and due to conflict has led him to speak out against the ANC’s intention to leave the ICC.

Dr. Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital in 1999 after witnessing the rapid decline in health care options for women caused by renewed conflict. As women increasingly sought his care for severe wounds inflicted by armed groups involved in the country’s two-decade long conflict, he became a vocal advocate for survivors and for ending sexual violence in conflict.

Since founding the hospital in eastern DRC, Dr. Mukwege and his team of 370 staff have provided care for more than 40,000 women, including 20,000 survivors of sexual violence who have received treatment at no cost. As rape and sexual violence increasingly became a weapon of war in the eastern DRC, Dr. Mukwege not only expanded the services of the hospital to provide a safe haven for women survivors, many of whom had nowhere else to turn, but he also drew international attention to these crimes at great personal risk.

Dr. Mukwege’s tireless efforts to advocate on behalf of women survivors of sexual violence in the DRC have earned him global recognition and the European Union’s 2014 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

"He is quite simply a hero – not just to me, although he most certainly is, but to the thousands of women he has saved in his hospital in the DRC,” said U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell, speaking at WfWI’s gala. “And he’s proof that men are important advocates for women."

Commenting on the shared vision and collaboration between Panzi Hospital and WfWI to empower women at the grassroots level to rebuild their lives after war, Jennifer Windsor, Chief Executive Officer, said:

“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.”

Windsor argued that Dr. Mukwege is a powerful example of the ways men are stepping up as allies and partners for women’s empowerment, which WfWI promotes through its men’s training programs in conflict-affected communities. The program has reached more than 8,000 men, tackling issues such as gender-based violence and discrimination in rural areas of South Sudan, Nigeria, the DRC, and Afghanistan.

Dr. Mukwege joined Windsor in advocating for men to work for gender equality.

“I call upon men who refuse to close their eyes and ears, and urge them to speak up. I call upon men to join women in the fight they have been in over the last 100 years for their basic and fundamental rights,” Dr. Mukwege said.

Humanitarian and model Philomena Kwao who served as the evening’s host spoke about her support of WfWI’s work not only to engage men as allies, but also to strengthen women economically and socially to create stronger communities and nations.

"I have personally seen how programs that focus on improving the health and well-being of women are effective long-term solutions for development. WfWI’s individualized approach gives women the tools they need to grow and thrive, so that long after their one-year enrollment in the program, they are equipped for life. I am extremely proud to be working with WfWI,” Kwao said.

Kwao invited attendees to support WfWI’s #SheInspiresMe campaign to celebrate the resilience and power of women survivors of war. Instructing everyone to pull out their phones, Kwao and guests took selfies with the photo of Ishimalanga, a WfWI program graduate in the DRC who is now a fisherwoman who provides for her family.

In addition to raising awareness for the need to invest in the power of women, the gala raised $1.3 million, with all proceeds supporting WfWI’s programs. WfWI Board Chair Jan Rock Zubrow recognized the incredible impact of this support and shared her and her husband Barry’s inspiration for making a $1 million dollar commitment to expand programs.

The evening ended with an inspiring performance by singer and songwriter Rachel Platten celebrating women’s resilience.

“I am proud to be here and support an organization that has done tremendous work for women around the world. I urge everyone to take the time to join WfWI in its mission to empower women and rebuild communities,” Platten said.

>>Read more about the Women for Women International 2015 Annual Gala<<

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About Women for Women International

Since 1993, Women for Women International (WfWI) has provided women survivors of war, and conflict with resources to move from crisis and isolation to stability and empowerment. WfWI delivers these resources through a tiered, yearlong program that begins with direct financial aid and emotional support. Participants also learn about their legal rights; receive life-skills training such as health awareness, numeracy, budgeting and saving, decision-making and negotiation, and civic participation; learn business and vocational skills; and gain access to income-generating activities where they can apply those skills and begin moving towards economic stability.

Along with helping more than 429,000 women in the past 20 years to rebuild their own lives and those of their families and communities after war, WfWI uses its voice to call global attention to the unique role that women play in advancing peace throughout society. WfWI works in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan. To learn more, please visit www.womenforwomen.org.