No to violence against women! Together, let’s support survivors.

Written By: UKANE ASSUMANI Didier, Panzi Youth Ambassador

 “If you show love to a woman who’s been rejected, she’ll take a completely different view of life. It’s a very simple thing to do, but it will give her the desire to fight…”. Dr. Denis Mukwege.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the grip of a complex humanitarian crisis that has lasted for decades. In the east of the country, endemic sexual violence has been amplified by recurrent armed conflicts, particularly in the provinces of South Kivu and North Kivu, where our mothers and sisters have been victims of atrocious sexual violence committed by armed forces and groups. The lives of many women have been turned upside down, causing desolation and trauma within their families. These despicable acts have tarnished the image of women in our society and have even created unrest and conflict within our households and communities. Violence against women is not inevitable; it can stop. Being a woman is not synonymous with rape, assault, harassment, or sexist remarks. Violence leaves traces, marks, emotions, and pain – some of them immense. It’s time to realize the extent to which violence against women destroys families, weakens societies, and irreparably diminishes our common future. These practices remain a violation of International Law and an affront to humanity, offending the civilized world’s sense of morality and decency.

Despite the persistence of these cruel acts, voices are being raised to denounce and fight alongside these women to defend their cause and enable them to rebuild their lives. No one is unaware of the efforts of 2018 Nobel Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege who, through Panzi Hospital and Panzi Foundation, treats these women victims of rape and repairs their souls. He fights against the violence that is at the heart of a system of war that is devastating our country.

His sense of compassion drives him to act desperately in the face of increasing injustice and cruelty. Thanks to his firm commitment and effective actions, thousands of women have already been given a smile and hope for life. Care for these women is also an integral part of this fight against impunity and for justice. Holistic care (medical care, psychological assistance, legal aid, and assistance with socio-economic reintegration) is provided to survivors who so wish. Nicknamed “the man who fixes women”, Dr. Denis Mukwege has demonstrated a great sense of self-sacrifice, sometimes at the risk of losing his life. The results of his struggle are visible. It is up to each one of us to ensure that his legacy keeps on living for the good of humanity. It is therefore clear that leaving victims with traumatic memories untreated or unattended is irresponsible and feeds the endless production of future violence. All it takes is for a minority of victims to become aggressors, and they in turn will create other victims, some of whom will in turn become aggressors. The care provided by the hospital and Panzi Foundation helps to prevent the onset of traumatic memories immediately after the violent event or to treat them if they have already set in. This care prevents the victims from suffering and creating further violence.

Panzi Foundation, through its Youth Ambassadors Program, amplifies awareness and conducts advocacy on behalf of survivors worldwide. Talented young volunteers committed to the cause of survivors have been working since September 2022 to promote and defend the rights of survivors around the world. They also raise funds for the care of survivors through Panzi Hospital and Panzi Foundation. I’m proud to be part of this great program and to voluntarily work to defend the rights of those who carry the hope for humankind and are indispensable pillars in every family. Panzi Youth Ambassadors aim to significantly reduce rape culture worldwide. Rape culture means denying that violence is committed by people we know. Rape culture means denying the reality of violence. Rape culture means considering rape within a community as not really “rape”. Sexual violence against women in countries at war and in conflict creates major challenges for societies. There are physical, psychological, legal, and socio-economic consequences. So, it’s not enough to provide better care for traumatized victims, we must also fight against all forms of violence, effectively protect potential victims, combat all myths and preconceived ideas about sexual violence, victims and aggressors, fight against sexism, inequality and discrimination within society, and do all we can to ensure that violence does not go unpunished.

Panzi’s Young Ambassadors definitely belong to this category of optimists who believe that new generations will build a world in which the level of awareness, the level of mobilization and the level of determination to leave no stone unturned will be dizzying to eradicate these evils that are eating away and destroying humanity.

Consequently, the fight against sexual violence is a human imperative and an absolute emergency requiring strong political will. It’s time to act, to show solidarity with the victims and to commit ourselves to the fight against sexual violence in all its forms. To lead this fight more effectively, we need a world that truly protects victims – a world where empathy and respect for the rights and dignity of every individual take precedence.

As a citizen of the world, I say no to sexual and gender-based violence. Together, let’s support survivors. Every gesture can count, every act of the heart can save.