Renowned African gynaecologist Dr. Denis Mukwege, whose work with victims of sexual violence in his native Democratic Republic of Congo garnered him the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, signed Friday a research and exchange collaboration agreement with Université de Montréal (UdeM), one of Canada’s most prominent francophone universities.
The agreement between the Panzi Foundation DRC, a non-profit chaired by Dr. Mukwege, and the university links the foundation with five UdeM faculties – medicine, nursing, law, arts and sciences, and the School of Public Health (ESPUM) – through exchanges and research and training projects, UdeM said in a press release.
It will allow Congolese doctors, nurses and researchers, as well as social workers, health-care managers, lawyers and economists working at the foundation and Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, in the war-torn eastern DRC, to train at UdeM and do internships in Montreal or in the DRC.
In turn, the university will combine its training and research expertise with Dr. Mukwege’s to support victims of sexual violence.
“Faced with the violence experienced by women and children in Dr. Mukwege’s homeland, we cannot remain indifferent,” said in a statement UdeM’s rector Dr. Guy Breton. “And the collaboration agreement we are signing today with the Panzi Foundation DRC is our promise that Université de Montréal will not remain indifferent.”
“By mobilizing to support the people who are making a difference on the ground, we can help extend Dr. Mukwege’s work to other regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo and even to other countries in francophone Africa,” he added.
ESPUM professor Dr. Marie Hatem will coordinate UdeM’s activities with Panzi Hospital and the Panzi Foundation DRC, the university said. Under Dr. Mukwege’s sponsorship she and her research team will develop and run training programs in hospitals and other health-care centres that work with women.
“The agreement today is the culmination of years of work,” Dr. Hatem said in a statement. “I’m happy to be able to count on the university and my colleagues from other faculties. With our combined expertise, we can contribute to developing the hospital and the Panzi Foundation DRC for the well-being of women and children.”
Founded by Dr. Mukwege in 1999, Panzi Hospital has treated over 50,000 victims of sexual violence and over 41,000 patients with gynaecological pathologies.
The 450-bed facility is running at full capacity.
Dr. Mukwege discussed challenges of fighting sexual violence against women and children in war and armed conflicts during an event at UdeM attended by more than 200 people.
UdeM is also bestowing an honorary doctorate on Dr. Mukwege, who in addition to his 2018 Nobel Peace Prize is also the recipient of the 2008 UN Human Rights Award and the 2014 Sakharov Prize.
“He is truly larger than life, and for UdeM graduates he represents an amazing example of courage and humanism,” said Dr. Breton.