The 2017 Human Rights Award, which is issued jointly by the ecumenical World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) and Signis, a membership body for Roman Catholic media professionals, has gone to Dieudo Hamadi’s “Maman Colonelle”. The film profiles the work of Honorine Munyole, a Congolese police officer who is responsible for a small unit protecting women and children in Bukavu in Eastern Congo, known for its high frequency of rape.
The eastern portion of the DRC faces particular challenges in sexual violence towards women. There are hundreds of thousands of victims, young and old, facing crushing psychological, physical and social consequences. The film depicts the ways in which society blames them, and does not see them as the victims they are, therefore denying them justice and human rights.
“The film was recognised because it restores human dignity – and peace – not only to women who suffered war crimes but also because it portrays the Congolese as taking the initiative to work for a better society,” the WCC, which supports the WACC, said.
The documentary begins with Munyole’s transfer from Bukavu to Kisangani. “In Bukavu she was respected by everyone and had authority,” the WCC said. “Now, she has to do everything to gain the respect and trust of the local population, the women and above all the administration and the police department. She is determined, and she proves one can make a difference in a corrupt environment. She does all she can to empower the disillusioned women who want to be recognised as war victims.”
The joint WACC/Signis Human Rights Award is one of many plaudits that the film has won, including a commendation from the Ecumenical Jury at the Berlin International Film festival in 2017.
“WACC and Signis believe this documentary offers a very human perspective on the horror of conflict situations that impact the lives of ordinary people, especially women,” WCC director of communication and vice president of WACC Europe, Marianne Ejdersten, said. “Its human rights perspective is exemplary.”
She said that the film and others like it are “vitally important in a world where violence, racism and nationalism are tightening their grip.”