Betty Makoni grew up in the high-density suburb of Chitungwiza near the capital city, Harare in Zimbabwe. She was one of six siblings; the eldest daughter and second eldest child. From the age of six, she had to help boost the family’s income by walking miles around the neighbourhood, selling vegetables, which she carried in a large basket on her head. This meant getting up very early in the morning for the first shift of vending, going to school during the day and then continuing her selling after school. She would often only clear her basket after nightfall and fall into bed completely exhausted. The next day, the whole scenario happened again.
Late one evening she went to the home of a prospective customer in the hopes he would buy the last of her vegetables. He did so, but also brutally raped her. Staggering home, traumatised and in terrible pain, she was shocked by her mother’s re-action. Betty’s mother told her never to mention the incident to anyone else, as it would bring disgrace on the family. The whole incident was buried and no justice brought against the perpetrator of this evil crime.
Three years later, her mother died from injuries received during domestic violence. She was never able to talk about the dreadful ordeal to her mother and regretted this forever after. She and her siblings went through many years of moving from pillar to post, often living with the most unsuitable relatives. Sadly, she lost one of her brothers during this time.
At the age of thirteen, she was accepted at the highly respected St. Dominics School near Nyamapanda. This was the turning point in her life. She graduated from St. Dominics with excellent grades and was offered a place at the University of Zimbabwe, where she studied for a B.Ed. degree. After qualifying, she started her teaching career.
During this time, she became aware of the cases of sexual abuse suffered by many girls attending the school where she taught. She desperately wanted to help them as she could strongly empathise with the pain they were going through. This led to the development of the first Girl Empowerment Village on a piece of land her uncle, Chief Makoni had given to her. It would become a place of safety, where all girls could come and heal from their ordeals of rape and other abuse.
This was the start of something much bigger. The Girl Child Network Zimbabwe came into being, helping all women and girls who were the victims of rape and domestic violence. It crossed the borders into Botswana and South Africa. All victims were accepted and many were helped to come to terms with their suffering and assisted to make new lives for themselves. She worked tirelessly and never turned anyone away. Sometimes she made herself unpopular with certain authorities but continued to do whatever she could without a thought for her own safety. There are many personal experiences and case histories in her biography, which everyone will be able to read about when published. We hope to complete it by the end of this year.
Betty, her huband and sons, moved to the United Kingdom in January 2009. It was the year she received the CNN Heroes’ Award. She has since received many other awards and recognition for the selfless and tireless work she does for those in need. Her fight continues for all women and girls in need of her help. Girl Child Network Zimbabwe continues, but Betty has now formed Girl Child Network Worldwide. The small Girl Empowerment Village in Zimbabwe has now become a Global Village and inspires many countries throughout the world to form their own Girl Empowerment Clubs. Her work covers every aspect of helping girls in need: Rape victims, victims of domestic abuse, girls living in extreme poverty and unable to pay for their education and others with serious medical or social problems.
Today, this message appears on Betty’s Facebook Wall: “Girl Child Network Worldwide has an advisory board in place comprising mostly women leaders with expertise in areas such as accounting, business development and law who meet regularly to give the charity constructive criticism, help in fundraising and PR efforts, and in making strategic connections. So far we have 8 women playing this critical role and we welcome more. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org ” ~ Muzvare Betty Makoni