Dr. Denis Mukwege, Congolese gynecological surgeon and human rights activist, awarded the 2024 Aurora Prize

The eighth Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded Thursday evening to Dr. Denis Mukwege, a world-renowned gynecological surgeon and human rights activist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Dr. Mukwege is the president of Panzi Hospital and Foundation in the DRC, which he founded in 1999 to address the systemic issue of maternal healthcare and maternal mortality. Amidst ongoing conflict and critical healthcare needs stemming from war, the hospital has become one of the world’s preeminent treatment centers for survivors of sexual violence in conflict.

In recognition of his courageous work and dedication to improving human rights for all, the Aurora Prize Selection Committee revealed their decision after conferring during a three-hour closed session. The Laureate receives a $1,000,000 award and a chance to continue the cycle of giving by supporting local grassroots leaders helping people in need.

“Dr. Mukwege has dedicated his life not only to caring for women and girls suffering from the brutality of sexual violence, but also fiercely advocating for their rights,” said Dr. Noubar Afeyan, Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative. “Aurora is honored to support Dr. Mukwege’s mission to help those in need, demand justice for the victims of sexual violence in war, and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Dr. Mukwege and his staff have helped to care for more than 80,000 survivors of sexual violence since the hospital’s inception. The hospital not only treats survivors with physical wounds, but also provides legal aid, socio-economic reintegration, and psychosocial services to its patients. Dr. Mukwege has been fearless in his efforts to increase protections for women and to advocate that those responsible for sexual violence be brought to justice, including the Congolese government and militia groups laying siege to eastern DRC. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.

“Dr. Mukwege embodies the very spirit of humanitarianism, tirelessly advocating for a society where sexualized violence as a weapon of war is eliminated. His unwavering commitment to lifting survivors from despair and leading them onto the path towards a better future is truly moving,” said Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee and Co-Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London. “As the 2024 Aurora Prize Laureate, his legacy of healing and compassion continues to inspire us all.”

On Thursday evening, Mukwege accepted the Aurora Prize in Los Angeles in honor of all the people in the world who are working to fight for gender equality and against rape as a weapon of war.

“At this moment, I reflect on the power of Gratitude in Action exemplified by so many of the women I’ve treated. These women stand up again after being subjected to extreme violence, and not only reclaim their own strength, but also extend a helping hand to others in need. I recall one patient whose case deeply affected our staff. After she was treated, she trained to become a nurse. She said she was doing it because she wanted to aid others like her,” stated Dr. Mukwege.

In 2024, major conflicts have driven massive humanitarian needs, with the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimating 300 million people will need aid this year. Almost one child in every five around the world is living in or fleeing from conflict zones.

“We are meeting today at a crucial time to dedicate our attention and resources to individuals risking their lives to care for those who are suffering,” said Dame Louise Richardson, a member of the Selection Committee and president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. “Dr. Mukwege and so many others, through their extraordinary courage and commitment, inspire each of us to create a world where we recognize and act on our shared humanity.”

Guests at the Aurora Prize Ceremony also honored the contributions of two other shortlisted Aurora Humanitarians: Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a human rights advocate who has been fearlessly defending the most vulnerable communities in Bahrain and the MENA region, and Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent Iranian human rights defender.

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