1st congress

13-14-15 novembre 2019


More than 200 scientists and NGO representatives gathered at ULiège for the first congress of the International Chair "Violence against women and girls in conflicts".


hen in 2015 I first saw Denis Mukwege operate on a raped girl under a year old, he asked me a terrible question: What will become of her? And then he let out his anger and tears. Four years later, after having created an association, Les Enfants de Panzi et d'Ailleurs, which takes care of young girls who have been raped in South Kivu, after having launched the Mukwege International Chair at the ULiège, to fight against violence against women and children in conflicts, I still can't answer that. We can't answer it.

It was with this poignant reminder that Professor Emeritus Véronique De Keyser opened the first congress of the International Chair "Violence against women and girls in conflicts" on Wednesday 13 November, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Mathilde and Dr Denis Mukwege, Honorary President of this international Chair to which he gives his name and his now worldwide fame. More than 500 people attended the opening ceremony.

"The further I go in life, the more I realise that there are unknowns around the issue of violence against women that I alone cannot resolve. There are still so many unanswered questions in the medical, psychological, legal, historical and socio-economic fields," explains Dr Denis Mukwege, who is confronted with unprecedented sexual violence at Panzi Hospital in the war-torn province of South Kivu, in eastern DR Congo. "Rape has been used as a weapon of war and a weapon of destruction of society," recalled the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who notes that medical care is not sufficient because the psychological after-effects, among others, are very serious.

A holistic approach

Dr Denis Mukwege advocates for a holistic approach to the care of patients, in the four pillars that also guide the daily work at Panzi Hospital: medicine and reconstructive surgery, psychological follow-up, socio-economic reintegration and legal care. "We must base our therapeutic approach on scientific foundations and transcend our emotions. This is what I expect from this Chair: to develop all the knowledge useful for this global care".

In this respect, Véronique De Keyser, who chairs the Scientific Committee, compares the Mukwege Chair to a "scientific international" associating partners from the North and the South, academics and humanitarians, tackling common issues but with different disciplinary angles.

A pioneering work

Created by the University of Liège and inaugurated in September 2018, in the wake of the Rentrée académique session at which Dr Denis Mukwege was awarded the title of Doctor honoris causa, ten days before receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, the International Chair "Violence against Women and Girls in Conflict" is holding its first Congress (which will be triennial) at ULiège, from 13 to 15 November 2019.

Professor Adélaïde Blavier chairs the Organising Committee, while the Mukwege Chair is housed in the Centre d'Expertise en Psychotraumatismes et Psychologie légale, which she directs within the Faculty of Psychology, Logopaedics and Educational Sciences of the ULiège.

The Scientific Congress is divided into four half-days, for as many pillars, each of which is dedicated to the research work of a specific pillar, while also including the work carried out on the ground by associations and NGOs.

Avec le CHU de Liège, Adélaïde Blavier participe déjà à la prise en charge psychologique des patientes et à la formation du personnel à Panzi, sur place, par exemple lors de séjours avec l’ASBL Les Enfants de Panzi et d’Ailleurs (présidée par Véronique De Keyser), ou par Skype.

With the CHU of Liège, Adélaïde Blavier is already involved in the psychological care of patients and the training of staff at Panzi, either on site, for example during stays with the ASBL Les Enfants de Panzi et d'Ailleurs (chaired by Véronique De Keyser), or by Skype.

"Dr Mukwege is a pioneer in this holistic aspect of caring for victims of sexual violence; he has been working on this for more than fifteen years, whereas our Centres for Victims of Sexual Violence (CPVS) in Belgium are only two years old", Adélaïde Blavier notes. "In addition to action in the field, it is imperative to continue scientific research and evaluation of protocols in order to improve them, and to do this, we must rely on data and knowledge.

With the support of ARES to the tune of 500,000 euros, the Mukwege Chair is developing a research project on the improvement of multidisciplinary care through the four pillars of medical, psychological, socio-economic and legal care.

The opening ceremony


The event that brings us together today is exceptional. It marks an important turning point in our journey of caring for victims of sexual violence.

Denis Mukwege, Message inaugural du premier Congrès de la Chaire internationale « La violence faite aux femmes et aux filles dans les conflits », Chaire Mukwege, Université de Liège, 13 novembre 2019

The opening of the first Mukwege Chair Congress was punctuated by interventions from:

  • Virginia Gamba de Potgieter, 
Représentante spéciale pour les enfants et les conflits armés à l’ONU, Secrétaire générale adjointe;
  • David Sassoli
, Président du Parlement européen
  • Denis Mukwege, 
Prix Nobel de la Paix 2018, Président d’honneur de la Chaire Mukwege, Docteur honoris causa de l’Université de Liège
  • Françoise Tulkens,
 Professeure émérite (UCLouvain), Ancienne magistrate à la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme de Strasbourg, Ancienne Présidente de la Fondation Roi Baudouin et membre du Comité scientifique de la Chaire Mukwege
 « Les droits de l’enfant et la violence de la guerre »
  • Sandie Blanchet, 
Directrice du Bureau de l’UNICEF pour les Relations avec les Institutions européennes


For all those who want to reduce suffering, justice is a precious good.

Françoise Tulkens, conférence de presse organisée à l’occasion du premier Congrès de la Chaire internationale « La violence faite aux femmes et aux filles dans les conflits », Chaire Mukwege, Université de Liège, 13 novembre 2019


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