GENEVA, February 1, 2018 — A cross-regional alliance of 25 human rights organizations announced today that Julienne Lusenge, a grassroots activist in the Democratic Republic of Congo who leads a coalition of 40 women’s organizations fighting rape, has been chosen to receive a prestigious women’s rights award.
Ms. Lusenge will receive the 2018 International Women’s Rights Award from the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, at a ceremony to be held on Tuesday, February 20, 2018, where she will address an expected audience of 700 U.N. diplomats, human rights activists, students and journalists from around the world. The opening event will take place at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva.
“I am humbled and deeply moved by this recognition from the Geneva Summit coalition,” said Ms. Lusenge, who will speak days before the DRC takes its seat for the first time at the 2018 opening session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The award to an activist fighting rape takes place at a moment of unprecedented world attention to sexual harassment and violence against women.
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.
About the Geneva Summit: Unique Gathering of Human Rights Heroes
Ms. Lusenge will join some 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.
“It’s a focal point for dissidents worldwide,” said Neuer. The global gathering is acclaimed as a one-stop opportunity to hear from and meet front-line human rights advocates, many of whom have personally suffered imprisonment and torture.
“The speakers’ compelling and vivid testimonies will aim to stir the conscience of the U.N. to address critical human rights situations around the world,” said Neuer.