Why Dr. Mukwege is Vital to the Women's Rights Movement

dr.denis mukwege

Dr. Mukwege, Congolese gynecologist. Photo by African Press Organization.

By Muadi Mukenge, Regional Program Director for Sub Saharan Africa

The news was startling and saddening – Congolese gynecologist, Dr. Denis Mukwege, who has performed surgeries on countless women physically damaged by indescribable rape, was attacked and almost killed at his home on October 25.

Dr. Mukwege leads a team of doctors working in Congo’s embattled northeastern corridor, where rape is used by armed groups to traumatize communities in their quest for political power and control of lucrative minerals destined for eager international markets. The Global Fund for Women supports women’s organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo who liaise with Panzi Hospital, where Dr. Mukwege performs 2-4 restorative surgeries per woman.

Since 2006, Global Fund has supported over 52 groups in the Congo, with over $1 million in operating funds for essential services and programs that advance women’s rights. Essential services include counseling and healthcare for rape survivors, shelter for those thrown out of their homes by families casting blame, and skills training to help them get back on their feet and earn an income. It also includes support to accompany them to report the crimes to police, file court claims, and prepare them to testify in court against perpetrators. Dr. Mukwege’s work and that of women’s groups are intertwined – the physical and psychological reconstruction gives rape survivors hope that they can get back to being the indispensable members of society that they have always been.

These brave women and men cannot be taken for granted. Dr. Mukwege is part of the human rights movement that has risen up to put some teeth into Congo’s 2006 Sexual Violence Law, criminalizing violence against women. While perpetrators of rape and other types of violence rule with guns, human rights activists’ work via messages of peace, reconciliation and mutual respect. Because of their efforts, women are entering leadership positions that were once closed to them, demanding accountability in governance and the legal system, and demanding justice for women. Because of their efforts, U.N. reports naming the countries that support armed groups are getting international attention and calls to cut off development assistance. Because of their efforts, in February 2011, the world witnessed the first-ever conviction of an army officer who ordered his soldiers to rape. It was the testimony of rape survivors, who were prepared in part by Global Fund grantees that sealed the fate of the officer. Thanks to human rights activists, local groups are holding communities together in the absence of government-provided health services and schools. The price of 16 years of war is steep. Globally, Congo ranks #1 in hunger, and is among the worst in maternal mortality and unemployment. Yet, who is accountable? The arms flowing into the Congo are not made there. There was a time when these sexual crimes did not happen.

There are many “Dr. Mukwege’s” in Congo, individuals and community groups working without fanfare. You can be part of the solution by supporting this movement and standing with us to end the senseless violence once and for all.

For more information about Global Fund's work in the Congo, read the impact report.

We Delivered Your Signatures

(L-R) Miriam Freudenberg of WAVE, Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Elizabeth Schaffer, CFO of Global Fund for Women.

(L-R) Miriam Freudenberg of WAVE, Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Elizabeth Schaffer, CFO of Global Fund for Women.

We are very excited to share that Global Fund for Women, in partnership with Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE), delivered your signatures to Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Your signatures made it all the way to Strasbourg, as parliamentarians from 47 member states met for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. There, the Secretary General heard your call to member states to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention that provides a groundbreaking framework to prevent, stop, and sanction the crime of violence against women.


“Thank you for showing your support! Keep calling on decision-makers to take action until the Istanbul Convention is fully implemented in Europe and beyond,” wrote Johanna Nelles, Programme Advisor for the Istanbul Convention.

As resource mobilizers for women's rights at the local, national, and international levels, Global Fund for Women and women’s funds in Europe are uniquely positioned to advocate for governments' firm commitment to allocating budgets and implementing the Convention.

"The Global Fund is a partner who is just as dedicated to ending violence against women as we at WAVE are," wrote Miriam Freudenberg of WAVE. "It is great to have such a strong and dedicated partner to work side by side with."

Because of your signature, we are much closer to a just, equitable world in which women and girls have voice, choice, and the resources to realize their full potential.

"Knowing we have the support of so many people around the world is as important to those women working on policies and promoting women’s rights every day, as it is to those whose lives will be directly affected by it," wrote Miriam.


The President of the United States Will Decide Women's Choice Globally

By Musimbi Kanyoro, President and CEO

During the first presidential debate, neither President Obama nor Governor Romney addressed the issue that affects half the world's population: women's reproductive rights. As the two square off on foreign policy, women's reproductive rights must be addressed because whomever becomes president will not only determine U.S. women's personal, economic and educational choices, but also those of women worldwide.

Read more »

Her WILD Adventure

by Michele Kumi Baer

“What do you think about women with disabilities?” asked Sarah, a Nigerian woman living with a visual disability.


Disability rights activist, Julien from Zambia, and Global Fund's Michele Kumi Baer at MIUSA 2012.

Read more »

Welcome Jane Sloane

The Global Fund for Women is pleased to announce the appointment of Jane Sloane as the new Vice President of Programs. Jane will start later this summer.


Global Fund for Women President and CEO, Musimbi Kanyoro says, “Jane’s global experience in organizational management, strategic partnerships, policy and program design will accelerate our work as true catalysts of change. Jane embraces the future of where we are going. We will be speaking more boldly about our collective impact; taking into account the experience of 25 years and $100 million in grantmaking to women-led organizations.”

Jane currently serves as Vice President of Development with Women’s World Banking (WWB) in New York City – an organization that, through its 39 network partners, provides microfinance and to 26 million people, 80% of whom are women. Jane said her WWB experience revealed the importance of integrating financial literacy and access to savings with education and health programs and that autonomy begins with economic autonomy.

“We need a new economic model with gender equality at the center. We need to value - and measure - care giving and make this visible. We need to create supply and demand for labor and we need a model of growth with employment. We need to give women the economic autonomy to escape from domestic violence. We need to make better use of women’s education and we need to advocate for greater flexibility of male and female roles in order to best support women across the globe to thrive rather than just survive.”

“We need a new economic model with gender equality at the center.”

Prior to WWB, Jane was Executive Director of the International Women’s Development Agency. One of her major achievements was leading an Asia Pacific Breakthrough initiative with the Women, Faith and Development Alliance that attracted almost $1.2 billion in funding commitments to benefit women and girls in the Asia Pacific region.

In addition to her to her professional qualifications, Jane brings visibility to the Pacific and the small island states, many of which have been long-time grantees of the Global Fund for Women.

“As an Australian, I’ve spent a lot of time with Aboriginal women and I’ve learnt a great deal about their Dreaming stories,” says Jane, “This includes ‘Seven Sisters Dreaming’ a myth about a group of stars visible in the night sky and also known in Aboriginal culture as feisty, fun and fabulous females for whom the sky was not the limit. The Global Fund has the ability to bring together so many geographically and culturally diverse organizations, and to galvanize the efforts of these organizations so they can have far greater impact collectively than they would individually.”

Jane was also the founding CEO of the Social Entrepreneurs Network and has held executive positions for several social sector organizations including World Vision and Marie Stopes International.

Jane holds a Masters degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Sydney and a BA (Hons History) from the University of Adelaide. She serves on the Board of the International Women’s Funding Network and is a Patron of Marie Stopes International.

Click here for Jane's complete bio »
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