Makoni a CNN Hero

betty_makoniBetty Makonis humble beginnings are paying off after she was nominated for the 2009 CNN heroes award. Little did she know that when she decided to start a girls club with 10 students from a Chitungwiza school where she was teaching to combat sexual abuse, it would grow beyond her dreams to become the Girl Child Network (GCN). Within a couple of years, the clubs

At the age of six, Betty Makoni, along with nine of her playmates were raped, all by the same man and she learned early on that girls and women were helpless to protect themselves from abuse. She once said: There is no greater set back for a woman than to grow up in a patriarchal system where girls and women are down-trodden and abused to the extent that those who perpetrate rape can go scot-free.

Three years after being sexually abused, she witnessed her father murder her mother. Through that experience of personal loss as a result of domestic violence, an advocate was born.

Something inside me snapped, she said. I told myself no girl or woman will suffer the same fate. Her efforts in Zimbabwe will be highlighted in an upcoming documentary, Tapestries of Hope.

Now in its 10th year, an estimated 60 000 girls are members of the GCN Zimbabwe and thousands of girls have been transformed from so-called victims into survivors and leaders. With over 700 girls clubs, 80 per cent of the members live in remote parts of the country. Despite overwhelming obstacles, including threats, detention and smear campaigns, Betty Makoni and the group continue to champion the rights of the girl child today in Zimbabwe and beyond.

In early 2009, Makoni teamed up with Priscilla Nyathi, a long-time domestic violence activist who has helped minority girls and women find justice in the court system in Essex, UK. Together they set up the Girl Child Network Trust Fund UK with help from international partners. The fund is fast gaining support in the UK and around the world. Many individual women and girls are mobilizing in small groups to determine how best to support each other.

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