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The recently announced Nobel Peace Prize 2018 was awarded to Dr. Denis Mukwege, a doctor who has dedicated his life to repair sexual violence victims in civil war zones. I had the chance to meet and interview him, and feel honored to share his story.

Dr. Mukwege
Dr. Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital, with capacity for 3600 women, where he performs reparative surgeries. Photo credit: Miguel Bueno

Written by Vivian Soares

Dr. Denis Mukwege’s voice has a calm and nice cadence – he chooses his words very carefully when he talks and never shows any sign of anxiety or nervousness. His face does not reveal what he has had to confront in his brilliant career as a gynaecologist and obstetrician who, for more than 15 years, has helped rape victims to recover their dignity by performing reparative surgeries.

His story began a few decades ago when, still a young doctor, Denis Mukwege started working as an obstetrician and was quickly engaged in the fight against maternal mortality. After having his hospital attacked during the Congo civil war, he became a human rights activist. “I’ve never understood why patients had to suffer for a war they didn’t start and I thought something had to be done,” he says.

By 1999, he started to receive women who had faced rape by militias and provided treatment and reparative surgeries for the serious cases. The appalling situation of those women made Dr. Mukwege start a hospital for rape victims, which has capacity for 3600 patients per year. Since then, despite facing death threats and adversities, Dr. Mukwege has never given up. He fought for more and started a worldwide campaign against sexual violence, and is now one of the global symbols of the campaign against rape, winning the Prize Sakharov in 2014 and the Alternative Nobel Prize in 2013 for his work.

Besides working as a surgeon and helping women recover from this violence, he also developed a 4-pillar model to be implemented in different hospitals and countries. He believes the victims should have medical, psychological, socioeconomic and juridical assistance to be empowered and to be able to regain their lives. The 4-pillar model is already in place in Congo – medical students are being trained in Dr. Mukwege’s hospital on surgical techniques and complementary treatments, while he has established partnerships with local governments on music therapy and social assistance projects. “We also try to make sure women are given opportunities to study or to find an economic activity to earn a living after the trauma,” says Dr. Mukwege.

Dr.Denis
The work of Dr. Mukwege was portrayed in a documentary screened during the International Festival and Forum for Human Rights (FIFDH 2016). Photo credit: Miguel Bueno

He believes women empowerment won’t come without fight and culture change and this is the reason he engaged in the United Nations’ #HeforShe campaign. “We are equals and need to be together. Women have been struggling alone for many decades and it is now time for men to take the responsibility on it as well.” He warns that sexual violation is a global problem, which is not concentrated in developing countries or war zones. “We need the conscience that we can do more as individuals and as a civil society. The cure for this barbarity will not come only from a surgery but from government recognition of such violations and of a change of mentality.”

Dr. Mukwege’s work is portrayed in the documentary L’homme qui répare les femmes, screened during FIFDH – the Human Rights Film and International Forum, which is currently taking place in Geneva from March 4th to 13th. Horyou believes Personalities like Dr. Mukwege should be even more vocal and an even bigger visibility. Humanitarians like him are Horyou’s inspiration in creating a social network for social good, as we work together to spread the word on positive and meaningful actions worldwide.

On the 25th of November, we celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. As part of its support of the cause, Horyou interviewed Juncal Plazaola Castaño, UN Women Specialist on Ending Violence Against Women.

Orange the world is a UN Women Campaign for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

What is UN Women’s approach to the elimination of violence against women?

We focus on four areas of work. The first of them is to work with partners, governments, civil society and stakeholders to revise or approve legislations and policies that meet international standards. It does not only regard violence but also equality and opportunities issues, like divorce and custody. We also work to improve services provided to women, namely legal, social, police and security services. Another area is prevention of sexism, men privilege and men dominance. We do that through women empowerment and by promoting more positive masculinity. The fourth pillar is about evidence and data. In order to know the magnitude of the problem and make governments and actors aware of it, we need to collect evidence. We do this with our partners, mostly academic.

Have you scored any recent progress in these areas?

In the area of legislation, UN women was an important actor on defining legal age of marriage in Malawi and some places in the Caribbean, focusing on preventing child marriage. We also helped to implement Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces, a program that aims to address sexual harassment. We are working with 27 cities in developing and developed countries, like in Winnipeg, Canada. The city has very high sexual harassment rates, especially with indigenous women and we involved with indigenous organizations to understand the scope of the problem and to set new public transportation initiatives. In Quito, Equador, we were partners of the municipal observatory of violence, which includes violence against women, too. They have a municipal budget allocation to the program, which shows great ownership and sustainability.

What is UN Women biggest challenge on eliminating violence against women?

One of them is accountability of perpetrators. It requires involvement of other actors and all of the pillars I mentioned before. If no legislation is involved, for example, the violence will continue as the perpetrators will think there is no penalty or consequence. We also need to address stereotypes, men dominance, men privilege and other social norms. Another big challenge is to reach those there are left behind, women who are exposed for their condition as women with disabilities, from ethnic minorities, lesbians, bisexuals, or women who are very young or older who experiment different types of violence. The last challenge I will mention is monitoring impact. We expect something to be achieved in 3 or 4 years, some change of social norms and attitude. I think we need to find the impact the work we are doing in a more realistic way.

Orange the world campaign. Photo: UN Women

Can we be hopeful that one day we will eliminate gender violence?

I am hopeful and I have observed some recent signs that gave me even more hope. One of them is the #metoo campaign. It shows the power of women’s voices and how to reach a momentum as the topic is not being hidden anymore. The campaign calls for accountability of perpetrators. And they are actually being called. It also shows that women are exposed not only related to domestic violence and women mutilation, but also to sexual and verbal harassment, rape and many other aspects. The other sign of hope is agenda 2030. The SDG set one specific goal for women, but there are also other hidden goals in the agenda. For instance, SDG goals dedicated to achieving inclusive and sustainable cities. It recognizes the centrality of equality, and how relevant it is for the international community.

What is the role of social media in UN Women campaigns?

The Internet and social media have a strong power to shape the ways we think. They are enablers of women empowerment. Social media gives voice to women and features stories of positive empowerment. It’s a very powerful tool for shaping stereotypes and the way we think and act, and a way to condemn discrimination. It creates a sense of community.

What does the color orange mean on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women?

From the 25th of November, we are ‘oranging’ the world for 16 days as part of the campaign. The color orange is a symbol of bright and optimistic future. The idea is to make social media to initiate a discussion about this future we want to have.

The 4th UN Sustainable Development Goal relates to education and change. How to implement inclusive and quality education for all, and promote lifelong learning, to build a fairer society.

Children in Pakistani School. Photo: UNDP

Malala Yousafzai was only 12 years old when she wrote a moving blog article about her life in Pakistan under the Taliban regime. Her bravery almost cost Malala her life – she was shot by a gunman and had to flee her country to remain safe. Things have changed for her since. Her voice was now heard and she became famous in global media for advocating education for girls in her country. Last summer, Malala received the news that she was accepted at the prestigious Oxford University. She’s a good example that education can change people, build dreams, move the world.

Like Malala in her early years, many children have poor or no access to education. According to the UN, 57 million children are out of school. Half of them live in conflict-affected areas. Even when they do go to school, it is often not enough to provide them with the basic education: 103 million youth lack basic literacy skills, and more than 60 percent of them are women. The most vulnerable groups are persons with disabilities, indigenous people, refugee children and poor children in rural areas.

Some progress has been achieved in the last 17 years – more schools have access to computers, and schooling is growing; yet the numbers are unequal and can’t always equate with quality. «Even though more children than ever are going to school, many do not acquire basic skills in reading and mathematics», said a recent assessment report published by the UN. Teachers do not have proper training and the poor conditions of schools in many parts of the world jeopardize quality education prospects.

Funds for infrastructure and training are needed, as well as public policies that prioritize quality education. Many non-government organizations have acted tirelessly to improve the situation, especially in the most affected regions and with the most vulnerable groups.

Girls education is a critical issue for our society. Photo: Ma belle école

On the Horyou platform, the NGO Avante – Educação e Mobilização Social, based in Brazil, provides empowering education to children in poor and socially vulnerable communities. In addition to funding teacher training and tech inclusion in schools, it promotes citizenship, encourages gender and racial identity debates with children, their families and social actors and train them to become community leaders.

The association Ma Belle École works within school inclusion projects in developing countries. Through individual sponsorship programmes, it provides children with regular access to school in conflict-affected countries like Syria and Mali. It also helps their families, providing them with food and other basic resources, so children are not forced to abandon education and thus be used as cheap labor.

If you wish to support this SDG, you can do so through Horyou. Go to Horyou platform and choose an NGO or project that helps promote education in your region or anywhere in the world. Your support can be made easier and more effective with Spotlight, our digital currency for impact. Check it out and start using it to engage in any cause you feel concerned about. Be the change, be Horyou!

The Relevance of SIGEF Davos

SIGEF Davos 2019

What do disruptive technologies, inclusive finance, women empowerment and the UN Sustainable Development Goals have in common? SIGEF, the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum, set up for the first time in Davos on January 22nd, 2020, brought stimulating insights into the common threads that run through all four topics.

The shared sentiment was/is that an inclusive world can definitely be shaped with the joint effort of all stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. With it, gender equality and wide access to new technologies would be bolstered; financial means and business opportunities would be open to all; and many an environmental and social challenge would be overcome.

More and more, we see a large number of major global corporations, including some emblematic companies like Philip Morris International and Nespresso, both of whom were among SIGEF Davos sponsors, are determinedly headed in that direction. Through strengthened ties within vulnerable communities or via investing in the provision of more sustainable products, they have realized how important it is to embrace the challenges of our times. Startups and fintech organizations including Fintech4Good, as well as NGOs led by WWF and Women Deliver, or media such as Devex and CBS, or again international agencies the likes of Geneva Chamber of Commerce and OECD, are walking the walk, and showing that, undoubtedly, an increased level of social and environmental commitment does help come to terms with inequality.

A few years ago, it would have been unimaginable that the finance and business worlds would seriously get to grips with social inclusion, or deal with environmental issues, or again bolster community empowerment or, even more unpredictably, use disruptive technologies for good. As Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, the social network for social good, puts it: “Capitalism is changing, and it is becoming more inclusive and more aware of society’s needs”.

That is the relevance and legacy of SIGEF Davos.

    SIGEF2019
    in Tokyo to Shape a Smarter Future

    The Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum is set to tackle some of the most critical contemporary issues in plenary sessions dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, FinTech, Sustainable Lifestyle, Health Technologies, Smart Technology and Smart Cities, Sports for Good, Renewable Future Energy and Opening New Roads for Sustainability.

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    New York, September 13, 2019 —The path to fostering a better future for all implies the search for urgent appropriate solutions to the greatest challenges that humanity has faced since the beginning of time: namely, social inclusion and sustainability. And that path inevitably goes through designing a smarter future for all.

    This is the stance of SIGEF, a leading world forum on social innovation and global ethics, and the reason why “Together Shaping a Smarter Future” is the theme of its sixth edition. Its purpose is to promote private, public and citizen endeavors, in all areas of socio-economic activity, toward designing, developing and implementing smart environments, innovative solutions and devices that lead to that hopeful end. The exploration and promotion of smart solutions have thus logically led Horyou, the Social Network for Social Good and Horyou Foundation organizers of SIGEF2019, to pick Tokyo, Japan, home of Smart-Tech if ever there was one, to be its venue.

    In that respect, SIGEF2019 is set to tackle some of the most critical contemporary issues in plenary sessions dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, FinTech, Sustainable Lifestyle, Health Technologies, Smart Technology and Smart Cities, Sports for Good, Renewable Future Energy and Opening New Roads for Sustainability. Inspiring stakeholders, including world experts, will share their most effective experiences and visions with a global online, offline and on the spot audience, while solutions will be proposed and strategies will be deliberated.

    SIGEF2019 will be held on September 19 at the Tokyo Prince Hotel, after an opening reception conducted at the Swiss Residence of the Ambassador, on September 18. It will entail the active participation of an international array of government authorities, business executives, international organization representatives and academia, as well as representatives of civil society and a number of experts and proponents of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

    “SIGEF has always exposed innovative and stimulating discussions about the social, economic and technological opportunities and challenges that reflect the most important needs of our society. In 2019, our Horyou Change-Maker Community is proud to organize SIGEF in Tokyo to discuss feasible strategies to reach the Sustainable Development Goals and to build a fairer future for the next generations. We truly believe that, together, we can shape a Smarter Future for All,” says Yonathan Parienti, Chairman of SIGEF Organizing Committee and Founder and CEO of Horyou.

    “Some of the confirmed SIGEF 2019 speakers include H.E Mr. Jean-François Paroz, Swiss Ambassador to Japan, Hon. Takuya Hirai, former Minister of Information Technology, Science and Innovation, Hon. Kenzo Fujisue, Member of the House of Councillors Japanese Parliament, Ms. Rebecca Shaw, Chief Scientist of WWF, visionary Artist Akira Hasegawa, Lifestyle model and influencer Ms. Lee Levi, Fintech innovator Mr. Roger Ver, Artificial Life Researcher Mr. Takashi Ikegami, Sustainability advocator Ms. Raquel Blanc, Vice President External Affairs Philip Morris International, Sports for Good advocator Mr. Saud Alsubaie, Director of Social Responsibility Department at Al Hilal Football Club, Women Empowerment Champion Ms. Yaye Soukeyna Toure, Innovator Dr. Hideto Tomabechi, Public Diplomacy Professor Dr. Nancy Snow, Robotic and Liver Surgeon Dr. Dmitri Alden, Mr. Magnus Magnusson, UNESCO’s Director for Partnerships Social and Human Sciences (remote intervention), World Record owner of Jumping Box, Mr. Iketani Naoki, Social Entrepreneur Joseph Mercorella, CEO of Lumary and Mr. Masaya Mori, Global Head, Rakuten Institute of Technology Worldwide.

    “SIGEF has always exposed innovative and stimulating discussions about the social, economic and technological opportunities and challenges that reflect the most important needs of our society. In 2019, our Horyou Change-Maker Community is proud to organize SIGEF in Tokyo to discuss feasible strategies to reach the Sustainable Development Goals and to build a fairer future for the next generations. We truly believe that, together, we can shape a Smarter Future for All,” says Yonathan Parienti, Chairman of SIGEF Organizing Committee and Founder and CEO of Horyou.

    SIGEF2019 Organizers and Main Sponsors:

    Horyou, the Social Network for Social Good
    Philip Morris International
    Horyou Foundation
    HoryouToken
    Cognitive Research Labs, Inc

    Contact:
    Vivian Soares, Horyou Media Relations
    media@horyou.com
    +41 (0) 22 321 98 20

    On International Women’s Day, Horyou pays a tribute to the women members of our community running non-profit organizations and social good projects around the world

    Think about an organization you know – be it a big NGO or a small neighbourhood project -, and you’ll surely single out a woman in charge of some of its most important tasks. According to a study of the White House Project, unlike almost all other industries and job positions in many a country whereby gender gap is the rule, in the non-profit sector women represent around 75% of all workforce (including volunteers).

    Our Horyou community is mere testimony of its many women members engagement and how they strive to make the world a better place. Here are just a few examples:

    Maria Guzmán

    Maria Guzman, Fundación Somos VidaCreated in 2012, this non-profit organization is based in Venezuela with the main project to support children with cancer while providing them with psychological support and the much-needed treatment. The foundation also plays an important role in promoting fundamental human rights through consulting and assessment. María is a frequent international speaker, including SIGEF, and a true social good promoter.

    Souad Dibi, Association Féminine de Bienfaisance El-Khir

    Souad Dibi

    Based in Morocco, the association provides legal and educational support to women and children. Their main goal is to improve their condition, empowering and helping them out of their vulnerable conditions to achieve economic integration and promote cultural exchanges. Souad Dibi was a panelist on Women Empowerment at SIGEF 2016 which took place in Marrakesh,.

    Pierrette Cazeau, Haiti Cholera Research Foundation

    Pierrette Cazeau

    This NGO was founded in 2013 and is an active member of the Horyou community. Pierrette has developed many projects to support and empower communities facing health and social problems in her home country Haiti, through HIV prevention programs for youth, and health care support and information on sensitive topics including sexual abuse. Pierrette plans to extend the NGO actions to other countries, namely to Ghana, Africa.

    Marie Louise Kongne, Water Energy and Sanitation for Development The Cameroonese NGO has developed a remarkable work among people without access to sustainable drinking water supply. Marie Louise leads a committed team of workers who educate the population in the rural areas of North Cameroon in such issues as sustainable management of water resources. The organization also promotes training to health workers in Cameroon,

    Silvana Andrade, ANDA

    Silvana Andrade

    Silvana is the president of ANDA, the largest Brazilian news agency for animal rights. A fierce and committed member of our Horyou community, she and her team have helped to raise awareness of traditional media in the past 10 years, along with advocating for causes including the end of rodeo shows and changing pet transportation policies in airlines.

    There are many other social entrepreneurs and social good doers among our members, personalities and organizations. Pick your favorite causes and connect for good with them on Horyou. Be the change, be Horyou!

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    The Relevance of SIGEF Davos What do disruptive technologies, inclusive finance, women empowerment and the UN Sustainable Development Goals have in common? SIGEF, the Social...