Welcome to the Women for Women International Book Club! This month, we’re reading The Power of Women: A Doctor’s Journey of Hope and Healing by world-renowned doctor, human rights activist, and Nobel laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege.
In this courageous, eye-opening book, Dr. Mukwege gives readers a firsthand account of the unimaginable atrocities that have been inflicted on women in his homeland, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and how his experiences as a gynecological surgeon led him to become an activist and advocate for women everywhere.
Citing the extraordinary strength and resilience of the survivors he’s known—the power of women—as inspiration, Dr. Mukwege has not only gone on to shine a light on the problems of our patriarchal society and how it supports this worldwide scourge, but he has called upon men to stand by women’s sides and dismantle it once and for all.
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Why The Power of Women is important...
The Power of Women: A Doctor’s Journey of Hope and Healing is a call to action for humankind as a whole to come together to stop sexual violence against women. In this powerful book, Dr. Mukwege weaves the story of his life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and beyond with the heartbreaking and inspirational narratives of some of his patients—all women who suffered atrocities at the hands of men—to broach a conversation about gender disparities and how they incite, normalize, and permit sexual assault. Not just throughout history, but today, still. Not just in developing countries, but everywhere men and women live together.
Beginning with Dr. Mukwege’s personal commitment to mending the broken bodies of women who suffered horrific injuries as victims of sex crimes and ending with his plea to the world to become involved in putting an end to the barbaric violence, each page of The Power of Women is meaningful, necessary, and compelling.
The brave and selfless doctor—who has become a target himself because of his relentless activism on behalf of women—explores the root causes and history of the pervasive problem and what we can all do to influence and support change, ultimately giving us all hope for a better tomorrow.
Women for Women International has worked in the DRC since 1996. As the war, civil strife, and rebellions continue to devastate communities, women and girls suffer disproportionally from high rates of violence and extreme poverty. Our Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program offers women in eastern DRC a constructive, dignified way to regain control of their lives through training that gives them the tools to know and defend their rights, influence decisions at home and in their communities, generate income, and save money for the future, contributing to economic self-sufficiency. For more on our work in the DRC, click here.
Check out the discussion questions below and connect with readers on Instagram to share your reactions, thoughts and questions by using the hashtag #WFWIBookClub, and tagging us with @womenforwomen. We want to hear what you think—share your take on the book with us!
- In the introduction of The Power of Women: A Doctor’s Journey of Hope and Healing, Dr. Mukwege, a world-renowned activist, says, “It’s unusual for a man to campaign for women’s rights.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
- Dr. Mukwege says that the only way he was able to carry on in the face of the spirit-crushing atrocities he saw in his work as a gynecological surgeon for Congolese women was the motivation he got from his patients. Discuss some of the patient stories the doctor shared in the book. Who did you find to be the most inspiring and why
- After the women recovered, they were often shunned by their families and communities. Why? How were the crimes against women viewed by the males in Congolese society?
- Victim blaming takes place all over the world in regard to sexual violence. How does it differ between the U.S. and the DRC?
- Discuss how the traditional roles of males and females have played a part in perpetuating sexual violence throughout history. Why do you think sexual violence has long been used as a weapon of war?
- In this book, Dr. Mukwege references the #MeToo movement and how it became a critical campaign in raising awareness about sexual violence toward women. Why does he believe it was so powerful? How does its success tie into his ideas about how we can make the world a safer place for women?
- Dr. Mukwege and his family endure regular death threats, and he has just barely escaped attempted murder more than once. Who do you think is responsible for this and why?
- Do you agree that it’s imperative to get men involved in the fight against sexual violence toward women in order for it to be effectively dismantled? How can each of us make a difference?