“Every day women and girls who have been raped and physically abused in horrendous ways come to my hospital for help,” says Dr. Denis Mukwege. “Many are girls under 10 years old.”
A world renown gynecologist, Dr. Mukwege has spent years in Panzi, the hospital he founded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, repairing the bodies of thousands of women and girls. “Despite my best efforts to fix their wounds, they will be damaged for life,” he says, “physically and psychologically. It is sickening. We must do more.”
For Dr. Mukwege, an advocate for women’s rights, this ‘more’ means building a strong, democratic society in the DRC with institutions that hold perpetrators responsible for their violent crimes. Only this, he believes, can help put an end to the ceaseless sexual abuse and rape. “Building social institutions is a long-term process,” he acknowledges, “but it is the only way forward.”
Dr. Mukwege was in New York in September to meet with donors and others interested in helping him in this mission. At the same time, violence flared in Kinshasa, the capital of DRC, as pro-democracy protestors demonstrated in support of elections to replace President Kabila whose term of office ends in December. So far, the government has made no move to organize elections and protestors say he intends to hold onto power, despite the constitutional ban on his seeking another term of office.
Dr. Mukwege spoke with Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times about the political situation in the DRC and what more the international community could do to assist.
Dr. Mukwege and the Panzi Foundation are partners of Donor Direct Action.