This week, the Nobel Prize winners for 2018 were announced. Among them were the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winners --
“…Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, such war crimes. Denis Mukwege is the helper who has devoted his life to defending these victims. Nadia Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others. Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.”
I actually learned of this prize in the context of Mukwege’s partnership with the Fistula Foundation – an organization I have long admired. Mukwege is a Congolese gynecologist who founded the Panzi Hospital – dedicated to serving women who have been raped by armed rebels. The Hospital has now treated over 85,000 patients and helped them recover from complete trauma and physical injuries. For speaking out against these crimes and supporting their survivors, Mukwege has been targeted, his daughters have been held hostage, and there have been attempts on his life. Despite this, he continues to work in the Congo, proclaiming that “justice is everyone’s business.”
Murad is herself a survivor of war crimes, and was held by the Islamic State for three months. Just three short years ago, she briefed the UN Security Council on issues of human trafficking for their very first briefing on this topic. She founded Nadia’s Initiative, an organization to provide help to victims of genocide. In particular, her resilience and willingness to speak out against what happened to her has given a greater visibility to sexual violence during times of war. According to her, "The world has only one border - it is called humanity."
In the midst of a tumultuous news cycle and the #MeToo movement, I found both Mukwege and Murad to be remarkable pillars of how one can inspire change from the local to the global. While Mukwege focuses his work on each individual patient, performing up to 10 operations each day, Murad works on the global stage. In particular, to me, the organizations they represent are reminders of how one does this work well, and what values we chose to espouse in our daily practice.