Playwright and female activist Eve Ensler nominates Dr. Denis Mukwege for his compassion and courage to protect and heal women in his native home in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Eve Ensler | Jan/Feb 2010 issue
Compassionate. Tender. Humble. Graceful. Dr. Denis Mukwege is a brave visionary, humanitarian and healer who has stood on the frontlines of a brutal regional war for control of mineral resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo—a war that has left close to 6 million dead and hundreds of thousands of women and girls raped and tortured. In the midst of some of the worst atrocities and violence this century has witnessed and the international community has chosen to ignore, Dr. Mukwege has used his life to protect and heal women. While he could easily have left the Congo, as many people did when the violence began more than a decade ago, he has chosen to remain with his people.
In 1989, Dr. Mukwege, who was already a trained obstetrician-gynecologist, settled at the Lemera Hospital, where he started an ob-gyn program. After the hospital was destroyed by war, he resettled in Bukavu, South Kivu. In Bukavu, he founded and is director of the groundbreaking Panzi Hospital, where he performs life-saving fistula surgeries that repair tears left by gang rape and sexual torture in the bladders, vaginas and anuses of women.
Not only does Dr. Mukwege rebuild women’s bodies by perfecting surgical procedures that heal, but he has built a community for women survivors. To the women and girls he heals at Panzi, those left without family and community, he is their father. He is a beacon of hope. His love keeps their faith in humanity intact, as he continues to do his work undeterred, and always at great danger to his life.
Dr. Mukwege has traveled the world, advocating for the women of his country, demanding of the United Nations, world parliaments and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the atrocities against women in his beloved country be brought to an end. For his tireless work, he has received the 2008 U.N. Human Rights Prize, the Olof Palme Prize in Sweden and the African Man of the Year award. Together with V-Day and UNICEF, Dr. Mukwege’s Panzi Foundation is working to build the City of Joy, a community for survivors of sexual violence through which women will turn pain to power.
— Eve Ensler, a playwright and activist who founded V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.