This week - Rape Counsellor Visits Canada to Publicize Unrelenting Violence Against Women and Girls in Congo

August 31, 2010, 11:38 AM EST

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On the heels of the news of gang rape of nearly 200 women and children in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Congolese social worker Esther Munyerenkana has made the extraordinary trip to Canada to raise awareness about the extreme violence facing women and children in her homeland.

Esther works at the Panzi Hospital with women who have survived brutal sexual assaults and rape, to help rebuild their lives.  Between five and 10 women enter the hospital each day, sometimes as many as 30. Each year, more than 3,500 women are treated at the Panzi Hospital, located in Bukavu, capital city of the South Kivu province - a tiny fraction of the women who experience sexual assault.

Esther will be in Toronto until Saturday and available for interview. French-English interpretation has been generously made available through the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

The DRC is thought to have the highest incident of rape in the world. Rape is a commonly used weapon of war by armed gangs in the decades-long conflict which has ravaged the region.

Esther is the recipient of the CAW Nelson Mandela Award, given every three years by the union to an individual or organization for exceptional achievement in the promotion of human rights.  It is named in honour of Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa.  It recognizes the struggle, courage and achievement of Mandela in fighting against apartheid and in advancing human rights and social justice.

The first recipient was Aung San Suu Kyi, leaders of the National League for Democracy in Burma, who remains under house arrest there by the military dictatorship. Other recipients include Stephen Lewis and Craig Keilburger.  Esther was recommended to the CAW by playwright and activist Eve Ensler and former UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis.


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