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(34,658 posts)
Sat Jun 29, 2013, 10:23 AM Jun 2013

Falling in Love

by Diana Buckhantz

I have fallen in love with two men on this trip to Congo. They are two men from very different backgrounds and with different skills but who share the same unshakeable passion and vision for Congo’s women. They are each extraordinary in their own right, and I am in awe of their humility, strength, and perseverance. Dr. Denis Mukwege is a Congolese gynecologist who founded Panzi Hospital in 1999 in Bukavu, DRC. Dr. Mukwege has become the world’s leading expert in repairing fistula — damage done to the internal organs of women during gang rape. At Panzi, at least 1200 women a year are treated for rape, many needing multiple surgeries. His patients arrive brutalized, bleeding, often leaking urine and fecal matter.

No one is turned away and many women live at Panzi for years waiting to complete their surgeries. I met a very young woman today who had been there for two years. Women can also keep their children with them, and the hospital provides child care and schooling for the older children. Dr. Mukwege’s dream (which is on the road to completion) is to open Maison Dorcas, a Women’s Empowerment Center where approximately 200 women will live while learning skills and business entrepreneurial techniques. The classes will start even now as the building reaches completion. And while the Center is mainly for these survivors, Dr. Mukwege’s goal is to include women from the community around Panzi so that the women will become integrated into the community and not be stigmatized as a result of living there.

Dr. Mukwege has dedicated his life not only to saving women’s lives but to becoming their strongest advocate as well. In fact, after he made an impassioned speech at the U.N. which blamed “impunity” for mass rape in Congo and criticizing the international community and the Congolese government for their shameful inaction, an assassination attempt was made on his life last October. He and his family barely escaped and were forced to live in exile for several months. It was a devastating time for everyone and especially the women in Congo, but he is back now albeit at great risk to himself, continuing to operate and advocate.


Amani Matabaro is physically the opposite of Dr. Mukwege. While also handsome, he is a diminutive man who can be easily overlooked in a crowd, but like Dr. Mukwege, his voice is heard loud and clear on gender equity issues and women’s empowerment. While Amani works and consults with various NGOs and individuals to support his wife and six children, his real passion is AFBEK (a French acronym that translates to Action for the Welfare of Women and Children), an organization he started to empower women and children by providing women with entrepreneurial trainings and children with the fees to be able to go to school.

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Falling in Love (Original Post) undeterred Jun 2013 OP
wow! so powerful! interesting too, since I just read the Eve Ensler BlancheSplanchnik Jun 2013 #1
I read that article right after I posted this one. undeterred Jun 2013 #2
.... BlancheSplanchnik Jun 2013 #3
Kicked and recommended. Uncle Joe Jun 2013 #4


(20,219 posts)
1. wow! so powerful! interesting too, since I just read the Eve Ensler
Sat Jun 29, 2013, 11:08 AM
Jun 2013

essay in GD. Very synchronous.

I hope these two men are training up followers in their footsteps...


(34,658 posts)
2. I read that article right after I posted this one.
Sat Jun 29, 2013, 11:23 AM
Jun 2013

Its wonderful to know that there are some people like this helping women in the midst of all this madness in the Congo.

While the children were truly impressive — both their language skills (some speak Swahili, French and English) and their goals were far reaching (becoming President of Congo or the Minister of the Environment), it was Amani who blew me away. Here is another man whose eyes fill with tears when he discusses the brutalization of women and whenever possible he speaks with conviction about the importance of changing gender roles in this country. He has made the betterment of Congo and women in particular his personal mission. We tell the children that there is no better role model for them than Amani.

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