First congress of the International Mukwege Chair
More than 200 scientists and NGO representatives gathered at ULiège for the first congress of the International Mukwege Chair on "Violence against women and girls in conflict ».
n 2015, when I first witnessed Denis Mukwege operate on a little girl who was less than a year old and had been raped, he asked me a terrible question: What will happen to her? He then burst out in tears and anger. Yet, four years later, despite having created “Les Enfants de Panzi et d'Ailleurs”, an association which takes care of girls who have been raped in South Kivu, and having launched the Mukwege International Chair at ULiège to fight violence against women and children in conflicts, I still cannot answer his question. We cannot answer his question. »
It was with this poignant reminder that Professor Emeritus Véronique De Keyser opened the first Congress of the International Chair on "Violence against Women and Girls in Conflict" on Wednesday, November 13th. More than 500 people attended the opening ceremony in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Mathilde and Dr. Denis Mukwege. The International Chair is named in his honor and he serves as the Honorary President.
"The more I move through life, the more I realize that there is a problem of violence against women that I alone cannot solve. There are so many unanswered questions in the medical, psychological, legal, historical, historical and socio-economic fields," explained Dr. Denis Mukwege, who has been confronted with unprecedented sexual violence at Panzi Hospital in the war-affected province of South Kivu, in the eastern DR Congo. "Rape has been used as a weapon of war and as a weapon of social destruction," recalled the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who noted that medical care alone is not sufficient because the psychological consequences, among others, are very serious.
A holistic approach
Dr. Denis Mukwege advocates for holistic patient care, with four pillars that guide his daily work at Panzi Hospital: medicine and reconstructive surgery, psychological follow-up, socio-economic reintegration and legal care. "We must base our therapeutic approach on scientific foundations and transcend our emotions. My hope for this Chair is that information and knowledge will be developed and disseminated globally. This is what I expect from this Chair: to develop the knowledge needed for this global care."
Véronique De Keyser, who chairs the Scientific Committee likened the Mukwege Chair to an “international researcher” involving global partners from different continents, academics and humanitarian workers, each addressing common issues but with different disciplinary angles.
Leading the Way
An idea conceived and created by the University of Liège, the International Mukwege chair was inaugurated in September 2018. At the 2018 opening academic celebration Dr Denis Mukwege received a Doctor Honoris Causa, ten days before being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. A year later, the fruits of the project were already on display at the first Congress on Violence against women and girls in conflict which was hosted at the University of Liege from 13-15 November. The Congress will be hosted triennially going forward.
The Mukwege Chair is housed in the Centre d'Expertise en Psychotrauma et Psychologie légale, which is led by Professor Adélaïde Blavier within the Faculty of Psychology, Logopedics and Educational Sciences of ULiège. Professor Blavier also serves as the chair of the organizing committee.
The Scientific Congress is divided into four half-days, each focusing on a different pillar and taking into account the current research and the work being carried out in the field by NGOs and local organizations.
In collaboration with the University Hospital of Liège, Adelaide Blavier is already involved in the psychological care of patients and staff training through onsite visits at Panzi, visits with the non-profit organisation Les Enfants de Panzi et d'Ailleurs (chaired by Véronique De Keyser), or via Skype.
"Dr. Mukwege is a pioneer in the holistic approach of caring for victims of sexual violence. He has been working in this field for more than fifteen years whereas the Centres for Victims of Sexual Violence (CPVS) in Belgium is less than two years old," notes Adelaide Blavier. "In addition to field action, it is imperative to continue scientific research and protocol evaluations in order to consistently improve them. In order for this to happen, we must rely on data and knowledge."
With nearly 500,000 euros coming from ARES, the Mukwege Chair is developing a research project to improve multidisciplinary care through the four pillars of medical, psychological, socio-economic and legal care.
The opening of the first Congress of the Mukwege Chair welcomed presentations from:
- Virginia Gamba de Potgieter, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict at the United Nations, Deputy Secretary-General;
- David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament
- Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize 2018, Honorary President of the Mukwege Chair, Doctor honoris causa of the University of Liège
- Françoise Tulkens, Professor Emeritus (UCLouvain), Former Magistrate at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, Former President of the King Baudouin Foundation and member of the Scientific Committee of the Mukwege Chair "The Rights of the Child and the Violence of War
- Sandie Blanchet, Director of the UNICEF Office for Relations with European Institutions
Visit the Facebook Live recorded ceremony