"I call upon men who believe in equality of gender," Dr. Denis Mukwege, TIME's 100 Most Influential People

"I call upon men who believe in equality of gender," Dr. Denis Mukwege, TIME's 100 Most Influential People

“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. Most recently, Dr Mukwege was named as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People for 2016.

His work has inspired the 2015 documentary, “The Man Who Mends Women,” which offers a behind the scenes insight into his daily practise at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC and interviews with the women whose lives he has changed. Last November, Women for Women International honoured Dr. Denis Mukwege at the 2015 Annual Gala in New York. Watch his acceptance speech below.

Dr. Mukwege's message highlights Women for Women for Women International’s mission to provide holistic education for the entire population we serve – not only the women in involved in our one-year programme, which has acted as a bridge to empowerment for more than 429,000 survivors of conflict to date. In communities worldwide, the participation and compassion of the men is key to building lasting change. Together we are stronger.

In his remarks, Dr Mukwege underscores the need to understand the connections that lead to an environment where peace can grow and flourish, “Peace begins in our homes, and this is where women’s centrality is critical. Women give birth; breastfeed and raise children of both genders the same way, with the same love. Without considering women as our equals, we deprive future generations of our legacy.”

The transformative power of engaging men was reinforced by Ghulam Rabi, a local leader in the community in one of the most patriarchal communities in Afghanistan where we worked. During the programme, the men studied how the Qur’an supports the right of women to choose their own husbands, and how women should not be married as young girls. Ghulam reflected on the changes the personal changes he experienced after taking part in the programme, “If men need education, women need education. If we need to know the rights of women, they should also know about their rights.” 

Though honoured for his work with women, Dr Mukwege concluded his speech with a call to action for men – to acknowledge everyday injustices and to muster the courage to act, "I call upon men who believe in equality of gender. 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. The time is now, to stand in solidarity with women, for women."

Together we are stronger. 

Learn more about our work in the DRC.