Mende

Mende Nazer is the author of the international bestselling autobiography SLAVE that has touched millions of lives and called many to action. Her story has gone on to inspire the motion picture I Am Slave and the stage adaptation of her life, Slave – A Question of Freedom.

Mende was born into the Karko tribe of the Nuba Mountains, Sudan. Her exact birth date is unknown (the Nuba keep no birth records) but is approximately the year 1981. She had an idyllic childhood while growing up with her family in a typical rural village where cattle and farming provided the livelihood, much as they have done for hundreds of years.
At around the age of 12 and at the height of the Sudan Civil War, Mende’s village was attacked by Arab raiders who burned the village, slaughtered many and took away the young children. Mende was one of about 30 other young children who were taken. She was first raped by her abductors and then sold into slavery. After changing hands several times she was finally bought to be a domestic slave for a wealthy Arab family in Khartoum.
For her formative teenage years, Mende toiled as a domestic slave. She was continually de-humanized, treated with contempt and beaten for any reason that the woman in the household chose to employ. One of the beatings was so bad that is was life-threatening. She was also denied the ability to practice Islam despite the fact that it was the same religion of her owners. She worked from dawn until the wee hours of the morning, with no time off. Mende feared for her life if she didn't not follow orders. She was really too young and inexperienced to know what else to do in this new environment. The modern landscape of Khartoum could not possibly have been more alien; after all, she had never seen even a spoon, a mirror or a sink, much less a telephone.

Mende desperately missed her childhood life and at times became physically ill yearning for her Umi (mother) and Ba (father). Despite all this, she continued to pray and remained faithful.

After almost 7 years, Mende's owners had a relative in London and arranged to have Mende shipped there to serve as a slave for that family. With only broken English and no friends, she remained locked up and isolated. Finally she was able to spend some time on her own and miraculously met a Sudanese man while doing errands. With his help and the help of journalist Damien Lewis she managed to escape on 11 September 2000.

After some initial setbacks, Mende finally obtained asylum in 2003. She did so with the help of Damien and a storm of public protest. She has since become a British citizen. Mende now lives and works in London where she leads a happy and quiet life. She is married to a one time refugee and fellow member of the Karko tribe who she met while on a book signing tour in the United States.

When asked how she could have survived such persecution and torment for so many years, she responds "I'm a very strong believer in God, I have a strong connection with my family and the hope that I would see them one day. I think hope and determination helped me to survive during that difficult time."

In 2006 she realized that hope. With the help of private donators, Mende made the journey back to Sudan. Incredibly she was able to fly to a safe region of the Nuba Mountains where she met with her family for the first time since her abduction. Damien Lewis accompanied her on this perilous and emotionally charged trip, once again co-authoring a second book about this journey with Mende called Befreit (Freedom) which has yet to be translated and published in English. This compelling book shares with us the feelings and emotions she experienced reuniting with her family and her homeland.

Although it is quite painful to continuously be reminded of the past, Mende has had the ongoing courage and strength to attend conferences addressing the issue of modern slavery. It is by looking to the future, however, that she has renewed her energy and passion to realize her dream of bringing education and accessible water to her homeland, the Nuba Mountains. Through the help of trusted friends, she gathered the required support to launch a foundation in her name to realize this dream.

In the past few years, Mende's story has taken on new wings with the motion picture, the play and now her foundation. The reason being is because her story is timeless. She was a beaten and raped teenage girl with nothing but the shirt on her back. For her formative years she was called Abda, which means slave or person with no name. She was someone who had every reason to give up on life. But she did not. She had faith and hope. This testimony transcends ethnicity, religion and gender and it is the magnet that has drawn in people from all over the world to support her efforts. With this new awareness it is our wish to turn your enthusiasm for her story into schools and water works in the heart of the Nuba Mountains. We are excited but patient and experienced. Most importantly we believe. This is a story about faith after all.