Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Betty Makoni putting a stop to Zimbabwe's rapes

At the end of the summer, I am planning on going to Zimbabwe to film a documentary about Betty Makoni and the Girl Child Network. Betty is an incredible human being. I came to know Betty in March of 2007 through an introduction by my friend, Paola Gianturco. Last year, Paola and I had gone to a Global Fund for Women event in San Francisco. It was at that luncheon that she had mentioned the plight of young girls in Zimbabwe. She spoke of Africa’s traditional healers who were guiding AIDS infected men in Zimbabwe to rape virgins to cure their disease; this includes their own daughters. I was horrified, but having had tremendous luck in catching every exotic parasite when I traveled internationally, I did not even think of going to Africa.

About a year later, Paola invited me to meet her at the International Women’s Day 2007 event presented by IDEX at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco, featuring Betty Makoni. When I called IDEX for a ticket, Sarah Dotlich, who is the Africa Program Director, answered the phone. Less than a week later and the morning of Betty’s speaking event, I found myself sitting across from Betty Makoni and Sara. Wow. It happened so fast. Betty stood with this big hug smile and lots of black hair, pulled together in a pony tail. I could feel her determination, and she was so genuine in her passion and beliefs. We shared our childhood stories and talked about sharing her story with the world. I gave her my short film on child-sexual abuse, "Flashcards" and she held it to her chest. The act of clutching those materials to her chest was so endearing to me! She actually valued a film and curriculum that helped educated people on abuse, something that has not been my experience in the United States. I suggested I ship the materials to Zimbabwe so that she did not have to carry them with her. She said no. She did not want them out of her hands.

That night, she was introduced at the World Affairs Council event by Walter Turner, who is a professor of History and Ethnic Studies at the College of Marin and Chair of the Department. He is also the President of the Board of Directors for Global Exchange. As these two individuals engaged in conversation and I listened to Betty talk, I started to weep. I don’t know what made me cry, as I am a public speaker and I talk about my own sexual abuse as a child to large audiences often. I even co-authored a book called, “This Is Not The Life I Ordered”, which talks about my abuse. Here I was being reduced to a puddle by her fierce protectiveness of the girls and her absolute conviction. She didn’t get caught up in the feminist bullshit that many of us do in the United States. “Women have a voice” she says as a matter of fact, “and I am going to die using it if I have to”.

Since Betty has gone home, we have been coordinating the details and logistics for the trip and documentary. I have recently asked her to start sharing her daily stories so that I can share them with others. I get notes from her when she has electricity. Last week she wrote me from her computer in the dark. Here is what she wrote:

“Today, I am out to help in the burial of a ten year old girl. She died today of HIV and AIDS as a result of rape. Her body has been lying in the home for 6 hours because due to poverty they could not afford the funds to hire a truck to take the body away. I arrive there at 10 pm and give some help. Tomorrow the uncle buries her and what pain I have to see such innocence lost. I will pay my courtesy call to the girl and try to make her a decent burial and eternal rest. Then this Sunday in Rural Mutasa, we will go to a village where a church leader allegedly raped 7 girls and he is behind bars. Two of them were herding cattle and one girl took her torn clothes with blood stains and this must have traumatized a lot of people-it is so sad.

I will be back on Monday and pass through the Girls Empowerment Village and meet rape survivors you will all meet when you come.

I will email about my experiences and what I would have seen. This is part of what I enjoy doing, being in the remote parts of the country listening to many stories and offering help wherever I can. That way I heal. I just leave my home without anywhere specific to go.”

This is the beginnings of an amazing story that needs to be told. Help us do that.

You can send a donation to the Girl Child Network through FreshWater Haven.

Please make your check out to: FreshWater Haven
Mail to:
455 Old La Honda Road
Woodside, CA 94062

More to come…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're documentary is beautiful. I hope you get many donations.