DR Congo, or “the world’s rape capital”. That’s the tragic name given to the area in the east of DR Congo where tens of thousands of women have suffered sexual abuse during the different wars. Some of these women are trying to rebuild their lives through healthcare and art therapy at the Panzi Foundation.  

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A foundation in east DR Congo, under the aegis of Dr Mukwege

Dr Denis Mukwege, a gynaecological surgeon and founder of the Panzi Foundation, firstly created Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in DR Congo in the eastern part of the country. The hospital was founded in 1999 and has cared for more than 50,000 women victims of sexual mutilation for over two decades.

Through his Panzi Foundation, Dr Mukwege also works to help women, sometimes very young, who have been raped. The facility provides psychological and social support and additional help through art therapy, which is easier for some women to relate to.  

Dr Mukwege was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.

Reconstruction through dance therapy

Beyond the healthcare needs that these women may have, the trauma they have suffered does not always allow them to verbally express their experiences.

Dance therapy is a middle-ground in helping them to reconstruct themselves. Their post-traumatic stress is so debilitating that sometimes some of these women take a long time before they can join the group.

The workshops begin with improvisational dance and then are structured into choreographed dancing. Quite often at the beginning, the women are unable to concentrate on the instructions or coordinate their movements, because of the trauma they have suffered. But the physical approach gradually allows them to speak freely and rebuild their lives.

The initiatives carried out at the Panzi Foundation are currently being assessed by Health Humanities Chair PhD students with the aim of formalising the systems used.

Article updated on 23/11/22