An article on CNN yesterday turned me on to Zimababwe native Betty Makoni, CNN hero of the week. She is a teacher, a volunteer, and the executive director of her organization, Girl Child Network (GCN), which boasts 30,000 members in Zimbabwe alone. She was also raped when she was 6 years old.
Every day, hundreds of young women suffer the same reality that she did, all because of a myth perpetuated by traditional Zimbabwe healers that “if a man with HIV or AIDS rapes a virgin he will be cured of his disease.” An estimated 40,000 cases of rape are reported annually in the country; some victims are as young as six months old.
Realizing that education was the first step to progress, Makoni earned two degrees, and became a teacher. She then founded GCN, an outlet for young rape victims that provides them assistance and support of all kinds, whether physical, emotional, or educational. Makoni has helped hundreds of thousands of girls get help, and has also saved roughly 35,000 from being raped in the first place.
Her efforts were so inspiring that they have been documented in the film “Tapestries of Hope,” scheduled to debut this spring. (Check out the trailer above.)
Anyone who can take a childhood horror story such as this one and turn it into hope for thousands deserves some serious celebration. I commend you, Ms. Makoni!