Our team

The Mukwege Foundation is made up of an international team of experts with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Together, we work to end wartime sexual violence.

Esther Dingemans

Director

Since 2000, Esther Dingemans dedicated her career to implement prevention and response programmes for conflict-related sexual violence. She worked for UN agencies and NGOs in Guinea, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Darfur, Colombia and Syria, and managed major humanitarian programmes in the field of gender-based violence and gender mainstreaming. She led capacity building projects in other conflict-affected countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Esther worked for the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Geneva to train humanitarian workers in understanding and implementing strategies to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

Debby Gruiters

Head of Operations

Debby has more than 20 years of experience in fundraising, project management and organisational development, mainly in international non-profit organisations. She specialises in compliance with eligibility requirements from a wide variety of donors, ranging from bilateral and multilateral donor institutions to private philanthropists and foundations. She gained this experience by working in consulting firms in Italy and in the international non-profit sector, where she was responsible for setting up fundraising departments and introducing organisational procedures related to financial, legal and procedural compliance. She joined the Mukwege Foundation in March 2017, initially as Fundraising Manager, and is now Head of Operations, responsible for Fundraising, Finance and HR.

Ghislaine Heylen

Office Manager

Ghislaine joined the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation in May 2018. As office manager, she deals with the daily office administration. In the past, she has worked for the private and non- profit sector. Most recently she worked as a Project Officer and Assistant for several large international water and sanitation projects. Ghislaine studied at the KULeuven in Belgium and graduated in Art History and Sinology (Chinese).

Pierrette Pape

Head of Advocacy and Campaigning

Pierrette joined the Mukwege Foundation in May 2018 and leads the organisation’s advocacy strategy to end rape and sexual violence in war and post-conflict times. Based in Brussels, she worked for more than 8 years at the European Women’s Lobby on policy and campaigns; as Policy Director, she led the EWL strategic engagement towards the European institutions and the United Nations, as well as EWL campaigns on ending violence against women and prostitution, through impactful advocacy, coalition building, and membership support. She is also a feminist activist involved in several grassroots organisations in Belgium and coordinates the youth network GenerationAbolition.

Apolline Pierson

Project Manager

Born and raised in France, she decided to move abroad at 16 and has since then lived in Taiwan, Canada, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and more recently the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Having completed an interdisciplinary master in international affairs, she became very interested in the topic of sexual violence in conflict because its combination of several disciplines: law, psychology, international relations and peacebuilding. She wrote her master thesis on access to reparations for victims of sexual violence in Eastern DRC. She is now based in Bukavu to coordinate joint projects of Panzi Foundation and the Mukwege Foundation in DRC, Central African Republic, and Guinea.

Benjamin Duerr

Legal and Advocacy Officer

Benjamin Duerr is a trained international lawyer and diplomat with extensive experience in communications. He advises organisations on public affairs and publishes regularly on topics related to the politics of international law.  Benjamin studied international law at a UN body in Italy. He worked as a journalist for leading global media outlets, such as Al Jazeera English, and reported from ten African countries on human rights issues and conflicts. With the combination of his communication skills and his background in international law and global affairs he supports the Mukwege Foundation particularly in its advocacy work on justice and accountability.

Maud-Salomé Ekila

Communications Officer

Maud-Salomé Ekila is a Congolese journalist and documentary-maker. She has worked as TV host for daily news programmes of different channels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and was the editor-in-chief of the channel “Tele Haiti” in Port-Au-Prince. Most of her documentary work focuses on the history of Africa and people of African descend. In 2009, her documentary “Kongo’s of Martinique” was released. She is an activist, fighting impunity and the marginalisation of Africans in the world. She has been working for Dr Denis Mukwege since 2012 and produced the documentary “The Hospital of Doctor Mukwege” the same year. She is now communications officer for Dr Denis Mukwege and Panzi Foundation in DRC and joined the team of Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation in 2018.

Malini Laxminarayan

Programme Officer

Malini Laxminarayan has conducted research for the last 8 years in areas related to victim rights and access to justice. Her victimological background began during her doctoral research, “The Heterogeneity of Crime Victims: Procedural and Outcome Preferences.” Following this, she worked as a project coordinator at the European Forum for Restorative justice, with the aim of bringing more attention to the field of restorative justice and increasing its accessibility. Her most recent role before beginning as Programme Officer at the Mukwege Foundation was Senior Researcher at the Hague Institute for Global Justice, where Malini worked on projects related to transitional justice, restorative justice and access to justice from a socio-legal perspective. Much of her work has focused on violence against women and improving their legal position. Malini is coordinating the global survivor network project at the Mukwege Foundation.

Siobhan Richards

Fundraising Officer

Siobhan has experience of both fundraising and grant-making gained in the UK and the Netherlands.  Her diverse experience includes public-facing roles as a trainer and coach, managing partnerships and networks, and support and capacity building in the non-profit sector. Prior to her work for the Mukwege Foundation she worked for the Heritage Lottery Fund in the UK, and as a freelance entrepreneur in the Netherlands. She joined the Mukwege Foundation in January 2018, and works as a fundraising officer.

Special Adviser

Dr Denis Mukwege is a world-renowned gynaecologist and human rights activist from east Congo. He received the Nobel Peace Prize for his global efforts to end the use of rape as a weapon of war. Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital and Foundation and has become the world’s leading specialist on the treatment of wartime sexual violence.

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