Girls in Zimbabwe grow up in a country racked by HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty, and one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world. A ten-year economic recession with inflation at 1000 percent robbed an entire generation of education and health care. The pervasive belief that sleeping with a virgin or daughter will cure a man of HIV/AIDS has made sexual violence an everyday reality.
Betty Makoni is a renowned activist, director and founder of the Girl-Child Network. Founded in 1998, GCN is a girls' rights organization with a membership of 20,000 girls across Zimbabwe. GCN presents a unique model of girls clubs and villages that support the empowerment of girls in the home, school and community. GCN supports the eradication of all forms of abuse that impede the full physical, emotional and spiritual growth and development of girls. The organization uses a human rights based approach to address gender inequalities in education and in all social, political and economic spheres of life.
In April, 2007, The World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child, in a vote of 5.2 million children all over the world, selected Betty Makoni as the recipient of this year's Global Friend's Award. She becomes the first-ever Zimbabwean to win the prize, the "Nobel" of children's rights. Betty Makoni received the prize because she, after being abused as a child herself, empowers girls to demand their rights. She supports those who are exposed to abuse and protects others from assault, forced marriage, trafficking and sexual abuse.
The Global Fund for Women gave GCN its first grant of $8,000 in November of 1999. During our 8 year partnership, the GCN has received a total of $85,000 in grants from the Global Fund for Women.
• 65 percent of orphaned, HIV+ and physically challenged girls received “excellent” scores on their 7th grade exams.
• In 2005, 200 girls living in abusive households benefited from the 24-hour emergency service.