Betty Makoni, the spectacular lady who fights to save thousands of girls worldwide from being sexually abused
The world cannot move forward if people, especially women and girls remain victims, internally and emotionally wounded and live in turmoil. There comes a time in life when we must just say ‘Never again.’ Never again will a girl or woman get raped, killed, drop out of school, be harmed by our culture or be sexually enslaved. When a woman stands up to speak out against harmful cultural practices that are considered norm and swept under the carpet and where older men derive pleasure from keeping sex slaves under guise of religion and culture, she becomes victimised, hated, labelled and thrown out of every social, economic and political system. Betty Makoni is one such brave heart who overcomes hurdles and walks over many roads with spanners and thorns. Her story is a testimony of what one woman can do.
Betty Makoni has fought for more than a decade to save her country’s girls from sexual abuse. She is the Founding Executive Director of Girl Child Network Zimbabwe & Chief Executive Officer of Girl Child Network World Wide, organizations that champion the rights of the girl child in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, USA, United Kingdom and the world over. The Girl Child Network is responsible for putting 4,000 child sex offenders behind bars, including a popular Harare church minister, Reverend Obadiah Msindo. Girl Child Network Worldwide now churns out millions of young activists from everywhere and Betty Makoni’s story shows money less strategy of transforming perceived victims into leaders, thus building a new generation of strong, active women citizens.
Betty Makoni grew up in St Mary’s in the suburb of Chitungwiza. Makoni was raped at age six by a shopkeeper in her neighborhood who believed that raping virgins bring luck. A child victim of rape, Betty Makoni’s anger was evoked to fight a crime that invades and violates the most delicate part of a woman. She did not feel physical pain for herself only, but also for millions of other women and girls who are invisible and remain in rubbles of poverty and recycled in violence for centuries. While Betty’s past shares the same tragic beginning as girls worldwide, her story takes a unique turn. After Betty’s father murdered her mother, Betty Makoni recognized the dangerous consequences of a woman’s secrecy.
I told myself that no girl or woman will suffer the same. What happened to me, my mother and grandmother should never happen to any girl again.
Despite being orphaned at the age of nine, Betty Makoni fought to stay in school because she knew this was the only way she could ever speak out about her past. The loss of her mother due to domestic violence did not enslave her, nor keep her a victim. Instead, she used that to rebel against patriarchy and expose its injustices. She turned something negative into something positive by establishing her organization from a classroom and carrying it with passion to be one of the biggest global movements for girls.
After receiving her university diploma, Betty Makoni became a teacher. Working in the classroom, Betty soon noticed the alarming rate at which girls drop out of school and upon further exploration, she learned more about the violence the girls experienced. Recognizing the girls’ need to speak about their experiences with abuse, Betty Makoni created an empowerment club so that girl could talk in a secure environment. With her help, schools across Zimbabwe initiated similar programs and in March 1999, Betty Makoni launched the Girl Child Network (GCN), uniting all clubs under one association.
The United Nations Women World Summit, Afrikan Goddess Award, Amnesty International are among the organizations that have given her recognitions for Excellency, Innovation & Creativity in girls empowerment. A CNN hero whom even the Dalai Lama and World’s Children’s Prize have also singled out as an influential hero of society. She was highlighted by Newsweek as one of 150 women who shake the world.
Violence against girls is neither excusable nor inevitable. With strength and determination, one person has changed the futures of tens of thousands of girls, positively affecting not only their lives, but also the lives of their families, communities and children to come. A holder of two Bachelor of Arts Honours Degrees from the University of Zimbabwe, Betty Makoni has inspired millions around the world to replicate the Girl Child Empowerment Model that she developed. Rescuing girls from violent and life threatening situations, grooming every girl and woman with activism is development that costs nothing but passion. We wholeheartedly appreciate the influential work by Betty Makoni, whose accomplishments serve as inspiration to women worldwide.
To get involved, please visit Girl Child Network Worldwide site for further details.
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