Saturday, August 02, 2008

Betty Maknoi cited by Amnestly International

from Amnesty International site:

Makoni's work has attracted financial support and recognition from international foundations and organizations. She won the 2007 World Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child, was featured in last year's book Women Who Light the Dark (PowerHouse Books), and a prize has been established in her name to honor others fighting sexual violence. She believes empowerment through education helps girls resist early marriage and sexual exploitation - for example, when poor girls are offered money in exchange for sexual favors.

Makoni has established three "safe homes" to shelter girls who were abused or raped. She and her team have rescued and sheltered 25,000 girls, providing counseling, schooling and rehabilitation in the homes.

Makoni's drive to help girls succeed and escape victimhood is rooted in personal experience. With little support from family or her community, she was determined to get an education and covered her own mandatory school fees by selling fruits and vegetables.

Through determination and the strength of her ability, Makoni forged ahead with her education (in Zimbabwe, 20 percent of girls do not even go to school), obtaining her B.A. with special honors at the University of Zimbabwe. After college, she started teaching in an elementary school in the Harare suburb of Chitungwiza.

Makoni has publicly exposed alleged sexual crimes by powerful men, including by officials in President Robert Mugabe's government.

Speaking out against such well-connected abusers takes enormous courage in a country where sexual predators are so often shielded from repercussions for their crimes. Despite the support Makoni has garnered from some government officials, local councils and tribal leaders, her work puts her at considerable risk for retaliation. She has been repeatedly threatened, detained, and arrested. Her home has been broken into in an attempt to frighten her and her family....

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