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Dorothée Gizenga, Industry's 'bridge Builder,' Dies

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DRC artisanal diamond miner advocate Dorothée Gizenga, 60, died on February 18th from diabetes-related complications. She was buried in Kinshasa.

Gustin Gizenga helped establish the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), which is now a part of the Resolve Foundation (based in Washington DC). After DDI's inception in 2008, she served as its executive director until 2019. However, when the issue of conflict diamonds arose and the Kimberley Process (KP) was established, her work in social upliftment in the diamond industry began years earlier.

A project officer was needed by Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) because it had taken a prominent position in the KP's civil society coalition, said PAC founder Ian Smillie. After joining PAC in 2003, Gizenga was assigned to oversee its work on human rights, human security, and long-term development in both Canada and Africa as a member of the PAC diamond team. As a representative of PAC and later DDI, she attended all KP meetings beginning with the first in 2003 and ending with the final one before Covid-19 in 2019, According to Smillie.

PAC and other members of civil society decided to create a framework for the development of the artisanal diamond mining sector after realizing that the KP had no plans to do so. It was reported by Smillie that Gizenga entered the race at the last minute, even though the DDI advertised for an executive director and received high-profile applicants from every continent except Antarctica.

Smillie recalled that "she was the perfect candidate" for the role. “A real go-getter, Dorothée had drive; she knew the industry and could communicate with people across all segments of the industry and society.”

She was able to communicate effectively not only within the KP but also with NGOs and those in the diamond trade thanks to her command of a wide range of languages.

As an advocate for the artisanal diamond industry, she worked to build programs and partnerships that would help the DDI strengthen communities and promote responsible diamond mining. For instance, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Maendeleo Diamond Standards were developed to guide the production of ethical diamonds by small-scale artisanal miners. Smillie explained that those were largely her ideas and ones that she oversaw.

Gizenga was also instrumental in establishing the KP's working group for artisanal mining, and she spread the word about the sector to audiences in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Africa, among others.

“She had a huge impact in demonstrating that the artisanal mining sector needed attention and the idea that development problems required development solutions,” He said that Gizenga had an impact on African governments and NGOs, as well as international NGOs, large donors, and the private sector.

As he went on to say, “She was a bridge builder between communities and interests that had never really thought much about each other or were even antagonistic toward each other,”

The Canadian and African Business Women's Alliance and the African Canadian Social Development Council were both founded with Gizenga, who went beyond the diamond business. Nelson Mandela Children's Fund board member: She was also a member of the board.

It's no surprise that Gizenga's father was an important figure in the DRC's independence movement, since she was born into a political family. When Patrice Lumumba was assassinated, he was jailed as deputy prime minister, and the family was exiled in 1965, spending time in Russia, Angola or France. This experience helped to shape her linguistic abilities.

When she returned to the DRC in 2019, after her father's death, she entered politics with the goal of reuniting the party he had founded.

“She was a bridge builder between communities and interests that had never really thought much about each other or were even antagonistic toward each other,”

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