This piece is written in honour of a man who has done so much to bring healing and hope to women who suffered sexual violence in war. Dr Denis Mukwege was jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize with Nadia Murad. As I said in a previous post, The Possibility of ending Sexual Violence – Nadia Murad
I could never hope to capture their pain, agony, struggles and tireless efforts at mending others and speaking up to get the international community and everyone in the world to end this war crime – Sexual violence/rape as a tool for war.
But I’d like to simply share their work and story briefly in the bid to say, “I salute your courage; thank you for giving yourself so others can live in a safer world”.
Why do humans engage in war? The very ancient reason centres around conquest of territories; power tussle; supremacy and control. At the heart of it all is man’s insatiable thirst for power and control of resources. A Yoruba saying states, “Ibere Ogun laa ri, ko seni mo ipari e”, meaning that one can only know how a war begins but no one knows how it will all end. This saying is usually quoted as a warning to control a conflict before it gets out of hand.
No one really wins a war because both sides suffer loss ranging from losing men, women and children; structural and economic destruction of their cities. Everyone will need to rebuild again often for many years and they may never fully recover from the effects and impact of the war. More worrisome are the emotional and psychological scars left on both the fighting men and civilian victims.
The Democratic Republic of Congo experienced great conflicts between soldiers and rebels which left the country terribly ravaged. The war lasted for decades and is referred to as the “The great African World War with the highest number of casualties since World War II. Sexual Violence was a weapon of War in eastern Congo for more than 20 years.
Those who suffered more are women and children who are beaten, raped and brutally treated by angry soldiers who use this physical assault as a weapon of war. Records show that in many war situations of various countries or communities sexual violence is increasingly been used as a weapon to inflict pain in war. After the war is over these women and girls are left battered emotionally and physically and even stigmatized by society. According to the findings of UN representative for Sexual Violence in conflict, Margot Wallstrom(2010) – as a result of the war DRC was labelled the “Rape Capital”
One man saw this need and decided to commit to providing support for these battered women. He is Dr Denis Mukwege who recently was jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner alongside Nadia Murad.
A Glimpse of Dr Denis Mukwege’s life and work
Denis Mukwege is a medical doctor, who has made it his life’s mission to mend women who are victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo war. Dr Denis was inspired to become a doctor when he accompanied his father who was a pastor to visit various sick people in communities. He then went on to study medicine and specialized in gynaecology and obstetrics with the desire to provide services for women who experience birth complications. Another serious need arose as war ravaged his dear country; many women, girls and children faced a wave of brutality as they were raped by soldiers and rebel warlords. It was during this high conflict period that he founded the Panzi hospital. It is located in Bukavu the eastern part of Congo and was officially opened in 1999 by Dr Denis Mukwege. Panzi hospital is known for support for sexual violence survivors. He and his staff have carried out a gynaecological repair for over 40, 000 thousand women who were sexual violence victims in the Congolese conflicts and war.
His life was once threatened as he faced assassination attempt because of his advocacy work in creating awareness about stopping this war crime – sexual violence and bringing to book perpetrators. Dr Denis had to flee his country for a while before returning but while he was away staff continued treating survivors. At the Panzi hospital, each rape survivor is accompanied by a social assistant who works to create a tailor-made healing pathway which includes repair, psychological, legal and economic intervention programs.
I once again salute Dr Denis Mukwege for his courageous and sacrificial efforts in bringing healing to these women and for his continued effort in the fight for women’s rights. He sure deserves this award. I end with his response to the award on Twitter:
This Nobel Prize is a recognition of the suffering of women victims of rape and sexual violence; the need for a just reparation in their favour and the hope to draw a red line against the use of rape in armed conflict.
Adebisi Adetunji (C) Founder Beehyve Empowerment and Development Initiative. Media content provider, Trainer & consultant-@debisibusybeemedia, Behavioral Change Radio Drama, Communication4Development, Social Media Influencer, Controller Programs (FRCN) Catch me on Twitter – @DebisiBusybee, Facebook & email – firstname.lastname@example.org