In this post we are highlighting the work of a remarkable woman, Betty Makoni, and the organisation she founded, Girl Child Network.

Ms. Makoni is a Zimbabwean child rape survivor who decided in 1998 to establish an organisation to champion the rights of girls and help them learn about their rights and how to defend them. The Girl Child Network (GCN) has established hundreds of girls’ clubs around Zimbabwe, a country where girls are extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse because of the prevailing myth that virgins can cure HIV/AIDS.

In addition to advocating for girls, GCN also offers them support and assistance when they are abused. The organisation has built several empowerment villages to provide a safe place for girls to heal from abuse. By offering girls legal, medical, and educational services, these villages “help to transform girl victims into survivors and leaders”. (http://girlchildnetworkworldwide.org/Programs.html)

GCN has also created a Girls Empowerment and Education Fund (GEEF) to respond to crises that affect girls. This program provides small grants that go directly to girls for GCN clubs and self-help projects. GEEF is currently in a fundraising campaign to raise US$3 million for initiatives that help a girl earn an income, pay school fees, start a girls’ club or fund its activities, and provide emergency support for girls who find themselves in violent situations.

An estimated 60,000 girls are members of GCN Zimbabwe. Ms. Makoni has shared GCN’s empowerment model with other countries, including Ethiopia, Swaziland, Malwai, and South Africa. In 2009, Ms. Makoni created Girl Child Network Worldwide (GCNW), based in the UK. There are now GCNW chapters in six countries—Uganda, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, South Africa, Canada, the USA and the UK.

In December of 2009, Betty Makoni was given a CNN Heroes award. To view the video about her nomination, visit http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/living/2009/06/04/cnnheroes.betty.makoni.profile.cnn?iref=allsearch.

Additional media about Betty Makoni and GCN can be found on the Media page of the GCN website.

We encourage all readers of our blog to visit the GCN site and learn more about the work they are doing to transform the lives of vulnerable girls around the world.

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