Incredible Doctor who is helping rape survivors turn pain into power

Dr Denis Mukwege is a gynaecologist who for many years has been operating on women who have been raped and sexually tortured in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he helped create a place where these survivors can turn their pain into power... a "City of Joy"!

Dr Denis Mukwege is a gynaecologist who for many years has been operating on women who have been raped and sexually tortured in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he helped create a place where these survivors can turn their pain into power… a “City of Joy”!


Since opening it’s doors in 2011, 1117 women have graduated from the “City of Joy”, healed themselves, been nurtured, learned new skills, empowered themselves and joined into a network of love and revolution.

These 1117 women have released massive trauma and horrific memories. They have danced, sung, learned their rights, performed plays, developed agricultural skills and come to love their bodies. They have become leaders in their communities and are no longer stigmatised for being raped.

The idea for the “City of Joy” was homegrown.

When Dr. Denis Mukwege of Panzi Hospital invited Eve Ensler to travel to Bukavu in 2007 to meet with and learn from women survivors of violence, she was most interested in knowing what solutions they felt would work in the face of such horrible violence. It was these women who birthed the idea of the “City of Joy”, saying what they most wanted was a place to live in a community so they could heal – in essence – they wanted a place to turn their pain into power.

When women first come they cannot see you, they can’t talk to you, they are ashamed, they are fearful, but after six months at City of Joy they can stand, talk without fear, without shame, and they have confidence in themselves.

Dr. Denis Mukwege, one of the world’s leading experts on repairing injuries of rape, has been working tirelessly to create more awareness for the cause, and the “City of Joy”.

The incredible doctor originally founded and works in Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where he specializes in the treatment of women who have been raped by armed rebels. He has treated thousands of women who were victims of rape since the Second Congo War, some of them more than once, performing up to ten operations a day during his 18-hour working days.

Mukwege is the third of nine children born to a Pentecostal minister and his wife. He studied medicine because he wanted to heal the sick people for whom his father prayed, after seeing the complications of childbirth experienced by women in the Congo who had no access to specialist healthcare.

After graduating with a medical degree from the University of Burundi in 1983, Mukwege worked as a pediatrician in the rural Lemera Hospital near Bukavu. However, after seeing women patients who due to the absence of proper care often suffered pain, genital lesions, and obstetric fistula after giving birth, he studied gynaecology and obstetrics at the University of Angers, France, completing his medical residency in 1989.

After returning from studying in France, Mukwege continued working in the Lemera Hospital, but after the start of the First Congo War, due to violent incidents he returned to Bukavu, he founded the Panzi Hospital in 1999.

Since its foundation, Panzi Hospital has treated more than 85,000 patients with complex gynecological damage and trauma, an estimated 60 percent of injuries has been caused by sexual violence. Most of the patients of that time were coming from conflict zones. Mukwege has described how his patients arrived at the hospital sometimes naked, usually in horrific condition. When he observed that genital damaging was being used as a weapon of war in the conflict of the late 1990s between different armed groups, Mukwege devoted himself to reconstructive surgery to help female victims of sexual violence.

In September 2012, Mukwege gave a speech at the United Nations where he condemned the mass rape occurring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and criticized the Congolese government and other countries “for not doing enough to stop what he called ‘an unjust war that has used violence against women and rape as a strategy of war'”.

It was that same year in October when four armed men attacked his residence while he was not home, held his daughters hostage, and waited for his return to assassinate him. Upon his return, his guard intervened and was shot dead by the assassins.

They missed Mukwege as he dropped to the ground during the shooting.

After the assassination attempt, Mukwege went into exile in Europe and the Panzi Hospital reported that his absence has had a “devastating effect” on its daily operations.

He returned to Bukavu on 14 January 2013, where the population received him with a warm welcome over the 20 miles from Kavumu Airport to the city, especially from his patients, who had raised funds to pay for his return ticket by selling pineapples and onions.

Since returning Dr. Mukwege has has worked tirelessly to repair, stitch together, and heal women who have been raped and sexually tortured and in 2018, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “his efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”.

In his own words: “I identify every woman raped with my wife, every mother, with my own mother and every child, with my own children.”

Most recently “City of Joy”, a film that premiered at the DocNYC Film Festival in New York City on 11 November 2016 has been released on Netflix and gives the viewer an in depth look at the Dr Mukwege and life in the “City of Joy”.

Watch the trailer below:

Sources: Wikipedia | city of Joy 
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