Balck woman Immaculée Ilibagiza spent 91 days of her life in a tiny bathroom with seven other women, hiding from the genocide taking place outside the door. The perpetrators had once been her neighbors, her friends, her classmates but now they wanted her dead.
Immaculée Ilibagiza is a Rwandan American author and motivational speaker. Her first book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (2006), is an autobiographical work detailing how she survived during the Rwandan genocide. She was featured on one of Wayne Dyer's PBS programs, and also on a December 3, 2006, segment of 60 Minutes (which re-aired on July 1, 2007).
Under Belgian rule earlier in the twentieth century, Tutsi had been granted preferential treatment, creating a rift between the groups. These divisions festered for decades, coming to a head when Hutu president Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down on April 6, 1994. Seemingly within minutes, the genocide began.
Immaculée Ilibagiza shares her experience when Her life changed on April 7, 1994, when she was home from college on the Easter holiday in Rwanda. She survived hidden for 91 days with seven other women in a small bathroom, no larger than 3 feet. The bathroom was concealed in a room behind a wardrobe in the home of a Hutu pastor.
During the genocide, most of Ilibagiza's family (her mother, her father, and her two brothers Damascene and Vianney) was killed by Hutu Interahamwe soldiers. Besides herself, the only other survivor in her family was her brother Aimable, who was studying out of the country in Senegal and did not know of the genocide.
In 2006, a documentary short about her story, The Diary of Immaculée, was released by Academy Award-nominated documentarians Peter LeDonne and Steve Kalafer.
Ilibagiza speaks all over the world and is the recipient of the 2007 Mahatma Gandhi Reconciliation and Peace Award. Ilibagiza dedicated herself to her faith, learned English, and committed herself to a “life of peace, hope, and forgiveness.” She has since worked with the United Nations, written seven books, and received the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace. She was Padua’s first Women’s Achievement Award winner in 2009.
In 2013, Immaculee Ilibagiza gave to dozens of fellow new Americans Wednesday just minutes after taking the oath to become a U.S. citizen was one of joy, forgiveness, and hope.