Congolese women’s rights defender awarded Aurora Prize

Julienne Lusenge, co-founder and Chair of the Board of SRT grantee Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development (SOFEPADI), a women’s rights organisation focused on addressing sexual and gender based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was awarded the sixth annual Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity at a ceremony titled “Reviving Together” held on the San Lazzaro Island, Venice, Italy in October 2021. The Aurora Prize is given to “inspiring humanitarians who go to extreme lengths to save the lives of others” and “has changed the lives of almost 1,000,000 people affected by war, conflict, persecution, and other humanitarian issues.”

According to the official announcement, Ms. Lusenge was honored for her “boundless courage and tireless activism have shone a light on the desperate plight of thousands of Congolese women subjected to horrific sexual abuse amidst the civil war in the country, exposing the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.” She has “brought to justice more than 800 perpetrators of violence and war crimes and her “clinic has provided holistic medical care to 7,500 survivors of sexual violence.”

Established in 2000, SOFEPADI focuses on combating sexual and gender-based violence in North Kivu, Ituri and Kinshasa; providing specialist medical, psychological, legal and socio-economic assistance to survivors of abuse, particularly women. SOFEPADI also documents human rights violations and conducts advocacy, stakeholder trainings, and community dialogues. It has pioneered the creation of mobile courts bringing justice closer to those who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence, as well as training community members to assist survivors in accessing justice. To ensure sustainability of its work, SOFEPADI involves community leaders, traditional chiefs and other local officials in the fight against gender-based violence and makes them allies in transforming attitudes and norms within communities.

As the Aurora Prize Laureate, Ms. Lusenge will receive an award of $1,000,000 and will distribute that award to three organizations she selected. The Fund for Congolese Women, League for Congolese Solidarity and Association of Mothers for Development and Peace all support grassroots women’s organizations, empower survivors of gender-based violence and reintegrate internally displaced persons.

Other 2021 Aurora Prize recipients include Grégoire Ahongbonon (Côte d’Ivoire), founder of the St Camille Association, Ruby Alba Castaño (Colombia), a human rights activist and founder of ASOCATDAME (Meta Association for Peasants, Rural Workers and Defenders of the Environment), Paul Farmer (USA), a medical anthropologist, professor at Harvard Medical School, co-founder and chief strategist of Partners In Health (PIH) and Ashwaq Moharram (Yemen), a physician who provides life-saving support to the starving population of Hodeida.

Learn more about the Aurora Prize here:

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