Childhood Rape Inspired A Fighting Spirit in Me – Betty Makoni

She experienced domestic violence at a tender age when her father used to assault her mother while she watched. She never recovered from this until she decided to take it upon herself to speak against her father’s action.

Unfortunately her intervention proved too little too late. Her mother died as a result of domestic violence injuries. She had no-one to turn to for help both materially and emotionally as she grew up forcing her to take up a paid job as a young girl to look after her siblings.

“We were left with an irresponsible father,” Makoni told Radio VOP in an interview at her base in South-end just outside London.

She says the rape she suffered at the age of six changed her life forever.

“My history changed me to be what I am right now.  There was a man who used to stay at number 1151 St Marys suburb, he was a paedophile (A paedophile is an adult who is sexually attracted to minors) but people didn’t know he was one, he raped a lot of young girls in the suburb but our mothers were not empowered to challenge him or understand what was happening,” said Makoni.

This stands out as one reason why she set out to establish the Girl Child Network as a simple Village Empowerment Trust with safe houses for abused girls all over the country.

She got the backing of traditional leaders but many including the government failed her. She was arrested several times and labelled a political nuisance when she was still staying in Zimbabwe.

But she never gave up. In her quest to try and get people to understand her calling, she even reached out to church women by teaching them to “apply the laws of the country more in their everyday
lives like they do with biblical teachings.”

“The idea was to encourage them to speak against the bad things happening around them,” she said adding that she treats “fighting for girl’s rights like a war just like the Taliban war which needs a UN
intervention to rescue abused girls around the world.”

She has no kind words for female activists in Zimbabwe whom she accused of waging a war against her which resulted in her arrests and eventually forced her to leave the country.

“People failed to understand what I wanted to do as black Zimbabwean women, they didn’t think black women can do it,” she said. “I was fought by people who were supposed to be peers, fellow NGO women activists.”

She failed to register her organisation from 1998 to 2004 until she was registered at the orders of the then Minister of Social Welfare, Paul Mangwana.

“He was moved by the work that we done when he saw us on the ground,” said Makoni.

But her troubles at home turned out to be nothing but a blessing in disguise.

Her organisation has grown into an international brand whose practises are now being replicated in many countries across the world including the United Kingdom.

Her organisation is looking after thousands of young girls throughout the world.

So far it has produced female leaders such as Memory Bandera who works for the Common Market for Southern and Eastern Africa (COMESA), a trade grouping based in Uganda.

Makoni believes it is everyone’s job to protect the rights of girls and women.