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Project Resilience, Women and Mass Sexual Violence

Project Resilience, Women and Mass Sexual Violence

All women deserve to live with dignity, without fear, in peace, and with full ownership over their own bodies. A woman’s body is not a battlefield.

This is what it says on the Project Resilience Web site. Formed in Los Angeles by a group of friends, Project Resilience aims to effect immediate and long-term change for women who are victims of physical and emotional violence, supporting recovery and restoring hope for a future with dignity and independence.

At present, it is working to serve the urgent needs of women who are victims of mass sexual violence in the ongoing Civil War in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a decade of war has claimed the lives of more than five million people, making this the most deadly conflict since WWII. In this war-ravaged country, women’s bodies have been reduced to battlefields as they are tortured, mutilated, gang-raped before their families, forced into sexual slavery, and left for dead.

The Panzi Hospital, located in the South Kivu province, was established in 1999 in response to the atrocities committed as a result of the ongoing conflict in the DRC. Though it is a full-service hospital, the majority of patients are victims of sexual violence who are in need of medical, emotional and spiritual healing.

In 1999 gynecologic surgeon Dr. Dennis Mukwege Mukengere joined Panzi Hospital (L’Hopital de Panzi), located in the eastern DRC, where as many as 70 percent of all women have been raped or sexually mutilated. He continues to serve as the Director of the hospital and is the only gynecologic surgeon who works full time. Mukwege offers much-needed medical attention to these women.

The hospital admits an estimated 3,600 rape victims per year, offering treatment for a host of critical health problems plaguing them, including sexually transmitted diseases (such as HIV), pregnancy, and fistula, a condition that results in incontinence of urine, stool, or both, often leaving victims homeless and destitute. The hospital receives an average of ten women per day, one-third of whom require major surgeries in order to restore their broken bodies.

In 2007, Panzi Hospital and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), a university inter-faculty-initiative based at the Harvard School of Public Health, partnered together in order to help train doctors, build capacity, treat victims and undertake an aggressive research program designed to uncover the root causes of gender based violence in order to intervene and prevent further atrocities. The mission of HHI is to relieve human suffering in war and disaster by advancing the science and practice of humanitarian response worldwide.

In collaboration with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Project Resilience is hosting their first annual fundraising efforts. Their goal is to raise $20,000 this year to support medical missions to the hospital. This amount, though large to some, is small to accomplish the care-giving needs of these women.

If you’d like to know more or donate to this organization – visit their Web site.

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