Rose Mapendo is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary story. In the early 1990s ethnic violence consumed the Democratic Republic of Congo, changing the lives of Rose and her family forever. After spending 16 months in a horrifying and torturous death camp, her triumph over evil is a transcendent symbol of strength, hope and happiness. Through her story, Rose’s hope and her life’s work has been defined – to take a stance against violence that advances a woman’s place in society and instills a sense of value in her life. Together we can change the way the world views women by giving them a voice to follow.
Rose Mapendo as born in Mulenge, Democratic Republic of Congo in 1963 to a Banyamulenge Tutsi family. A natural born caregiver, Rose was married at the age of 16 and began raising a strong family unit with her husband. Everything changed for the Mapendo family in 1998 when they fell victim to the ethnic genocide that originated four years earlier with the intent of punishing the Tutsi tribe. Rose and her family were taken to a prison camp where they endured horrific conditions constant surveillance of the government. During their first week of imprisonment the government ordered all men to be murdered, including Rose’s husband. Then, Rose was faced with the excruciating proposition to trade her 17-year-old daughter to a soldier in return for her son’s life.
Overcoming the Odds
The turning point in Rose’s story was the birth of her twin boys in the death camp. After accepting that her life would never be the same, Rose prayed that God would end her life. She promised forgiveness to those who had harmed her, making a respectful statement by naming her twins after two of the camp commanders. The wife of one of the commanders recognized Rose’s actions as a sign of honor and arranged to have Rose and her family transferred to a less violent prison camp located in the capital of the DRC. They resided in this prison camp for just two more weeks before being sent to a Red Cross protection center that worked to help refugees resettle in other areas and move on with their lives.
Today Rose works as a global activist to bring awareness to the violence that continues in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Residing in Phoenix, Arizona, she is living proof that it is possible for a Tutsi woman to live a happy and healthy life that is full of worth and value – something that once seemed impossible. Through the Rose Mapendo Foundation, she is able to provide necessary survival resources to women in the DRC who continue to be affected by the vicious ethnic warfare that still exists. The ultimate goal for Rose and the foundation is to end suffering for all women by securing for them a spot at the peace table where true change can be made.