October 26, 2018
By Mike Ziemerink
The co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018, Dr. Denis Mukwege, is the founder of Panzi Foundation and Maison Dorcas, a project supported by PWRDF.
When Dr. Mukwege created the Panzi Foundation in 2008, the goal was to support the work of the Panzi Hospital and improve outreach to people in hard-to-reach rural communities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But the foundation has done so much more, becoming a voice for gender equality, helping women rebuild their lives after rape and other forms of assault.
“As PWRDF doubles its efforts to address gender inequality and empower women, working with partners whose mandate is to eliminate gender-based violence has become our priority,” says Zaida Bastos, Director of Development Partnership Program. “The silent war waged on women in the DRC, away from the limelight, is a tragedy that PWRDF couldn’t ignore. Supporting the Panzi Foundation and Maison Dorcas was the right thing to do.”
Panzi Hospital is known as the place where women who survive gruesome sexual violence go to be treated, and Dr. Mukwege is known as the “Doctor that repairs women.”
“For a woman victim of sexual assault and violence, the medical care is the first step in a long road to recovery,” Dr. Mukwege told Bastos and Richard Librock, External Funding Program Manager on a recent visit to the DRC. “We can, and should do better by accompanying her until she can stand on her own.”
After discharge from the Panzi Hospital, women are brought to Maison Dorcas where they can openly speak about their experiences with other women who have faced similar violence and help to build up the self-esteem and earn skills they need to return home.
Recently, Netflix produced a documentary called City of Joy. Many of the women that are cared for at Maison Dorcas also participated in the City of Joy project.
At Maison Dorcas, women are provided with psychosocial support, legal assistance, literacy training and education as well as re-integration services to help the women readjust into their communities, as smoothly as possible. The 2018 World of Gifts guide invites PWRDF supporters to purchase women’s livelihood kits to support women at Panzi House.
Maison Dorcas is located in the South Kivu province of the DRC, the third worst province in the country in terms of gender-based violence. Victims rarely report these crimes because of fear of repercussions or because of the shame and stigma. Violence is inflicted on women by armed rebel groups, soldiers and also civilians, and after the women are raped they are often expelled from their homes and their communities. The perpetrators of these crimes rarely face justice and continue to offend as the women suffer in silence.
PWRDF staff were lucky to meet Dr. Mukwege and see first-hand the amazing work the Panzi Foundation does for victims of gender-based violence. Dr. Mukwege, who is also a pastor, preaches every Sunday about the importance of fighting gender-based violence. He made an impression with his passion and determination to fight for rights of victims.
“Meeting him was the experience of a lifetime,” said Bastos. “When I learned he won the Nobel Prize I was so happy not only for him, but for all victims of gender-based violence everywhere in the world.”