News: Oct 25, 2016
The afternoon event was started off with a talk by Dr Mukwege’s, in which he detailed his work helping survivors of sexual violence at the Panzi hospital in DR Congo. This was followed by the screening of a trailer for a film about Dr Mukwege and his work entitled The man who mends women (link to trailer) and a short interview with the film’s Director Thierry Michel. The seminar was concluded with a panel discussion, in which Dr Mukwege took part, together with two professors from The University of Gothenburg; Maria Stern, School of Global Studies and Marie Berg, Institute of Health and Care Sciences, and a researcher with the University of Gothenburg Centre for Person-centred Crea – GPCC.
Dr Mukwege’s talk described the situation in DR Congo, where he has worked as Director of the Panzi Hospital since 1999. The Panzi Hospital is a referral hospital in eastern Congo, which is financially supported by Swedish charity organisations Läkarmissionen and PMU. Even though the country is officially at peace since 2003, war still rages on in the Eastern parts, and atrocities continue. The Panzi hospital was originally created to help reduce maternal and child deaths, but instead the first patient to walk through the doors came to seek help for the injuries sustained by extreme sexual violence. Dr Mukwege thought this would be an isolated case, but this patient group has since become the main focus of the hospital, to which women travel from all over the region and even neighboring countries. Dr Mukwege has since helped thousands of girls and women aged from six months to 80 years, all with horrific injuries.
Rape has been and is still used as a weapon of war in many different wars and regions globally. Not only does it injure the individual woman, but it also has many other terrible consequences. According to Dr Mukwege, in DR Congo, it causes displacement of population as people flee from fear; it causes population reduction as the women receive such serious injuries that they become unable to bear children; it contributes to a destruction of the economy as women are too afraid to go out to work in the fields for fear of being attacked; and it has a traumatic impact on social and family life, indeed on entire societies. Dr Mukwege’s grim observation was that the systematic use of rape has the same impact as conventional warfare, but at a much lower cost.
– Medical treatment was the number one thing, but we soon saw that it wasn’t enough; we needed a wider perspective, Dr Mukwege went on to explain.
To treat and rehabilitate the victims of extreme sexual violence, a person-centred holistic model, the one-stop model, has been developed. It is based on working with the women in partnership with four pillars – their medical, psychosocial, legal and socio-economic needs, and to identify their individual resources and use them proactively in rebuilding their own lives and their communities. Professor Berg, who has been working closely with Dr Mukwege for over thirty years, had some input regarding the person-centred elements of the model, but on the whole it has evolved naturally as the best solution.
Dr Mukwege and Professor Berg have now co-authored a recently published article entitled A Holistic, Person-centred Care Model for Victims of Sexual Violence in Democratic Republic of Congo: The Panzi Hospital One-Stop Centre Model of Care. Link to the article.
Dr Mukwege describes the transformation of the women going through this programme as going “from victims to survivors, from survivors to agents of change and participants in the peace process. These women have enormous strength and are more than ‘only victims’ – if they get the support they deserve.” A wide-reaching programme of work also takes place with other members of society at all levels, including men, to educate and to change attitudes.
Dr Mukwege sees the current work to get women into positions of political leadership as the ultimate step in healing the country. They have managed to get a few women into the peace keeping forces, an extraordinary step given that many of the men in these forces, and also holding positions of power generally, have themselves been the perpetrators of these crimes. But a lot of work remains to be done, and the country needs help; Dr Mukwege and his organization can only achieve so much. – It is a very complex situation, concludes Dr Mukwege, and the perpetrators are also victims.
This University of Gothenburg Global Challenges Seminar was held in the cooperation with Right Livelihood, Läkarmissionen and PMU. Global Challenges Seminars were launched in 2015 to promote understanding for global challenges and processes and thereby provide tools to contribute to a democratic societal development. The seminars are open for students and staff at the University of Gothenburg, but the general public is also welcome.
TEXT: JEANETTE TENGGREN DURKAN
PHOTO: LISS PERSSON