Sourcing

Dorothée Gizenga, First Executive Director of DDI, Dies at 60

SourcingFeb 24, 2022

Dorothée Gizenga, First Executive Director of DDI, Dies at 60

She was known as a tireless activist for social justice and champion for artisanal diamond miners.

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo—Dorothée Gizenga, co-founder and former executive director of the Diamond Development Initiative, died Feb. 18 due to complications from diabetes.

She was 60. 
 
Her father, Antoine Gizenga, was a prominent politician in the Democratic Republic of Congo independence movement, according to an obituary from non-governmental organization Resolve, which joined forces with DDI in 2020. 
 
He served as deputy prime minister and was jailed following the assassination of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. 
 
He and his family were exiled in 1965; they moved to France, Russia, and then Angola. 
 
Dorothée grew up around many prominent African liberation leaders of the time, but it was her own personal independence and desire for education that led her to move to Canada to earn degrees in chemistry and economics, the obituary said. 
 
She worked for the Ontario government before moving to Ottawa. There, as a young mother, she worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs. 
 
She later worked for Partnership Africa Canada, now called Impact, becoming a leader in the campaign to put an end to conflict diamonds. 

In 2008, she was named the Diamond Development Initiative’s first executive director, where she became a tireless advocate on behalf of the world’s artisanal diamond miners. She traveled extensively in this role, taking DDI’s message to governments, industry bodies, and civil society across Africa, Europe, and North America. 
 
She stepped down in 2019 after more than a decade in the role to move into the position of regional director in the DRC to lead DDI’s expansion in Africa.

She was also a cofounder of the Canadian and African Business Women’s Alliance, helped set up the African Canadian Social Development Council, served as a board member of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. 
 
She was skilled in English, French, Russian, Portuguese, and Lingala, a Bantu language spoken throughout the northwestern part of the DRC. 
 
Gizenga received the Diamond Empowerment Fund’s Diamonds Do Good Award for Sustainable Practices in 2016. 
 
“Dorothée Gizenga was as fearless as she was tireless in her pursuit of development and social justice. She will be greatly missed,” Resolve said in its press release. 
 
Industry veteran Peggy Jo Donahue also remembered Gizenga in a social media post after news of her death, saying: “No one was more practical or more determined to create truly sustainable change in the world of small mining than Dorothée Gizenga—and I will honor her memory, and the lessons she taught us all, till the end of my days. Rest in peace, dear Dorothée.”
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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