Muzvare-Princess Betty Makoni is the founder of the Girl Child network, a charity organization that takes care of victims of sex abuse.

She grew up in the town of Chitungwiza, a high density suburb located to the south of Harare, Zimbabwe. Makoni holds two degrees from the University of Zimbabwe. She has authored several books and received many international recognitions and awards for her innovation and works in girls and women`s rights activities.

She was inspired by her life’s story.  Makoni was only 6 years old when she was brutally raped by a shopkeeper in her neighborhood who believed that raping virgins brings luck. She lost her mother to domestic violence at the age of 9, and life forced her into the role of a mother. She worked at a mission school while fighting for her education; she raised herself and five siblings. Growing up in Zimbabwe, Makoni was aware of the vicious cycle of poverty and violence against women and children as she witnessed firsthand the silent genocides of women and girls in rural homes and communities. It was this awareness that occasioned her determination to end violence against women and girls both at a personal level, in homes, schools, communities and the country at large.

After her university degree, Makoni took up a teaching job in the old neighbourhood.  The job opened her eyes to the staggering population of women and girls still suffering from abuse and she realized that the situation had not changed. She leaped into action, rather than standing by to cry, to put an end to the menace. Makoni founded the Girl Child Network in 1999 with about 10 girls.

She started volunteering through the Network in 2000 and has since then rescued over 60,000 girls, providing mentoring and consistently lending her voice to the girl-child, reminding policy makers and leaders to improve laws, policies and attitudes that adversely affect the development women and children while fighting for girls in similar circumstances around the world.

Princess Makoni’s journey as an activist has not been an easy sail as she has been faced with some of the most difficult cases involving the prosecution of high profile politicians against rape, and respected pastors against forced child marriages. She suffered slander from detractors of female activists, some of which had put her life in great danger in the past.

Amidst the struggles, Makoni has been successful in fundraising for different innovative and organizational development programmes; she has implemented innovative strategies directly eliminating gender-based violence and the harmful cultural practices that fuel the spread of HIV and AIDS among girls. Today, the Girl Child Network Worldwide has grown from a class of 10 female students in a Girls’ Club at Zengeza High School, Zimbabwe, to 700 clubs in ten provinces with millions of girls worldwide, placing it among the largest global movements for girls ever coming from a school project in a rural community in Africa. Makoni has offered over 5000 girls’ scholarships and her program rescues sexually abused girls from abusive environments daily, enrolling them in schools. She has also mobilized financial resources to build four Girls Empowerment Villages, a unique model that provides safe shelter, healing and a future to sexually abused girls.

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An active agent of economic, environmental and social change, hard bred as a diamond and making a difference amidst the societal challenges Muzvare-Princess Betty Makoni is a Rural Diamond, shining through the disadvantaged Girl child. She tells her story through her novel “Never again”.

By Boma Benjy Iwuoha

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