A cross-regional alliance of 25 human rights organizations in Geneva, Switzerland has chosen MMW's Julienne Lusenge, Executive Director of our "Wamama Tujenge" podcast program, to receive the 2018 International Women's Rights Award from the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. Julienne is a grassroots activist in the Democratic Republic of Congo who also leads the fight against rape. She received the award at a ceremony held at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva on February 20, 2018, where she addressed an audience of 700 U.N. diplomats, human rights activists, students and journalists from around the world.
“I am humbled and deeply moved by this recognition from the Geneva Summit coalition,” said Ms. Lusenge, who accepted the award just before the DRC took its seat for the first time at the 2018 opening session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
When war erupted in eastern DRC in 1998, Ms. Lusenge was a journalist who heard first-hand from victims of abuses by warring parties, including rape and sexual slavery.
An estimated 48 women are raped every hour in the DRC, a country known as the “rape capital of the world.” Outraged, she founded the Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development (SOFEPADI), a coalition of 40 women’s organizations in eastern DRC.
Today, Ms. Lusenge and her group help survivors of sexual violence in the DRC to bring perpetrators before courts, and promote reintegration of survivors into their communities.
“Women are the first victims of war, but only they hold the unique key to peace,” says Ms. Lusenge. “I dream of the day when there will no longer be any weapons that support violence in my country.”
Ms. Lusenge was chosen for the award "for her selfless dedication to the human rights of Congolese women amid the horrors of war, and for being a voice to the voiceless," said Hillel Neuer, the executive director of United Nations Watch, a co-organizer of the conference together with Liberal International, Human Rights Foundation, and more than 20 other human rights groups.
Ms. Lusenge was honoured with other of the world's most courageous champions of human rights at the Geneva Summit, including dissidents, activists and former political prisoners from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, Venezuela and China, who will be testifying on the human rights situation in their countries.