Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

 Prime Minister Stefan Löfven,

Madame Under-Secretary General Phumzile Mlambo,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Thank you, Prime Minister, for the invitation to participate in the launch of Sweden’s He for She campaign under the auspices of UN WOMEN.  

Sweden is known worldwide for advancing women’s rights at domestic and international level and I admire your political leadership on promoting gender equality. But we shall remember that first and foremost, it is thanks to the Swedish women who have fought hard in their daily struggle to gain their rights. 

Sexual and gender based violence exists in a latent state in all cultures and in all social classes in peacetime, and is exacerbated during wartime where women and girls are the primary victims of conflicts decided by men and where rule of law is failing to ensure the human rights of women. 

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the patriarchal scheme of our society has planted the seeds for harmful practices and retrograde customs keeping women as inferior beings, as second class citizens, subject to discrimination at all levels: family, community and society. In the Eastern part of Congo, women are living in a constant fear of being subject to violence, where its most extreme form, rape, has been used as a strategy of war for the last two decades. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Twenty years after the Beijing Declaration, we can only acknowledge the wide gap existing between women’s daily realities and their rights as recognized in international conventions, Constitution, and domestic laws. All around the world, there is still a lot of room for improvement. That gap must be closed by women and men, working together. 

As men, we cannot remain silent as the women and girls we love - the mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, friends, colleagues and peers in our community – are denied their position in our society, their access to education, their access to economic opportunity, resources or support, undermining prospects for sustainable social and economic development. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Women’s rights are not only of interest to feminists: it is a global issue; it is our common humanity and the future of our society which is at stake.

We must all be mobilized, let’s work together, men and boys, women and girls, in a spirit of mutual respect and solidarity, to make this a more healthy, just and peaceful world for all. Thank you.

This statement is also available in French. Interview or speaking engagement requests for Dr. Mukwege may be submitted via email or telephone to Elizabeth Blackney, ElizabethB@pfusa.org, 541.390.1913. Panzi Foundation USA is a 501(c)3 organization, founded in 2010 by Dr. Denis Mukwege tobuild awareness,  and support the work of our partners, primarily the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DR Congo.