Access to healthcare is a blatant problem in the DR Congo. In many areas, health centres are obsolete and difficult to access, care is delivered in poor conditions, there is a lack of medicines, mental health is ignored and social support is inexistent. These many problems are further accentuated among groups of vulnerable people and in particular among women.
SAKIFE is a photographic reportage made by Christophe Smets, together with Olivier le Bussy, in the provinces of North and South Kivu in eastern DR Congo. Christophe aims to show the roles of women in the healthcare system and is based on snapshots of the lives of patients, victims and women working in the healthcare system, as well as of others working on health issues.
The starting point for the project was the work of Doctor Mukwege, the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner and winner of the 2010-2011 KBF Africa Prize for his work at the Panzi Hospital, where tens of thousands of victims of sexual violence have been cared for. Throughout the world, Denis Mukwege is known as the ‘man who repairs women’, the victims of sexual violence committed during armed conflict in Congo. Dr. Mukwege travels the world to denounce the use of rape and sexual violence as weapons of war and he has instigated a holistic vision for the care of female victims of violence. This approach features a comprehensive framework that includes several aspects of care: medical, psychological, legal and socio-economic. The Panzi Foundation, which overarches a large part of the activities of Dr. Mukwege’s teams, in partnership with numerous humanitarian and development actors, currently has no fewer than fifty projects relating to the health of female victims of sexual violence.
In (North and South) Kivu, rape is an insidious part of civil society too and one that causes harm within the family. In fact, in the DR Congo, women who have suffered rape are often rejected by their community.
Rape is not the only important sexual health problem among the women of Kivu. Carrying heavy loads, linked to people’s poverty, is regularly called into question since, long-term, it often results in gynaecological problems such as prolapse (when pelvic organs slip down in the body).
Whilst sexual violence accounts for many of the problems faced by the women in Kivu, SAKIFE set out to approach the issue of women’s health from a wider aspect, examining the activities of men and women in healthcare working at various levels of care. The project highlights as faithfully as possible the often precarious situations and the global consequences of limited access to quality healthcare for women in the region. However, the exhibition also presents some of the solutions implemented, with support from various local and international partners to improve the daily lives of women and build a better future for them and their children.
The SAKIFE project aims to be a travelling exhibition which not only bears witness to, but also raises awareness about, an issue that today is increasingly at the heart of major concerns for Congo and human society as a whole. It is foreseen that the exhibition will travel around Belgium and beyond, notably in Canada and the DR Congo.
The Liege photographer Christophe Smets set out to use his images to give a photographer’s view of the current and dramatic situation in Kivu, highlighting women’s emotions but in keeping with great respect for them and their dignity. The situation of women around the world has been a recurrent feature of the photographer’s work. This subject has already inspired Christopher Smets to conduct projects on women’s poverty in Brussels, as well as the combat against excision around the world. After several visits to make reportages in Ituri, in eastern Congo, and spurred on by his curiosity and involvement, he was motivated to take a look at various aspects relating to the health of women in North and South Kivu and the work of Dr. Mukwege.
In addition to the exhibition, a conference on women’s health in Kivu relating to maternity will be organized on August 25 at the BELvue Museum.
SAKIFE – Women’s Health in Kivu
From 28/06/2022 to 28/08/2022
From 10h to 18h (28/06 – 1/07: 9h30 to 17h)
Place des Palais, 7 – 1000 Brussels