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Zimbabwe: Girls rise up and sing about abuse
Taurai Maduna,
November 02, 2005

View audio file details: Interview with Betty Hazviperi Makoni

Betty Makoni and members of the GCN in Chitungwiza
Betty Makoni and members of the GCN in Chitungwiza

While Zimbabwe grapples with a major economic crisis young and energetic Zimbabwean girls have come together to courageously fight a silent war raging in their communities: the war on sexual abuse. With no special regalia or artillery, the girls are armed simply with their melodic high-pitched voices. Their combined musical talents recently produced the music album: Wake Up Girls – Child Sexual Abuse: Lets develop a culture of prevention.

The album is inspired by Betty Hazviperi Makoni, the Founder and Director on the Girl Child Network (GCN) an organisation that promotes the rights of the girl child in Zimbabwe. The Girl Child Network’s mission statement reads: "We envision a society where girls enjoy their political, social and economic rights and walk in the fullness of their potential."

Based in Seke, Chitungwiza 30km out of Harare, the Girl Child Network is located in Unit F, one of the many areas overflowing with raw sewage. This is one of the signs of the town’s failure to cope with a growing population. Also visible in Seke are mountains of rubble left over from what the locals describe as the Tsunami otherwise referred to as Operation Murambatsvina (the destruction of homes and mass eviction of people in urban areas).

But despite all these challenges Betty Makoni continues her fight for the rights of the girl child. The Girl Child Network office receives at least 6 cases of child abuse on a daily basis. In July 2004 the Sunday Mail newspaper reported that cases of child sexual abuse were on the increase in Chitungwiza with a total of 139 having been reported to the police between January and May.

Betty Makoni and her son
Betty Makoni and her son
Using imagination and creativity Betty Makoni was instrumental in conceptualizing the album in an effort to provide both education and entertainment through music. Ms Makoni hopes that the album will encourage girls to come out in numbers and report child sexual abuse and rape. She says, "It is a taboo in most of our homes for a child to talk about matters that are sexual, and to divulge to the family that sexual abuse has taken place".

The Machakata Secondary Girls Club from Gokwe performs the title track of the album Wake Up Girls. The girls sing about how they did not know about their rights when they were raped and the song encourages girls to wake up and fight for their rights. Other songs featured on the album include Zororo Kuvana (Peace To The Children) by the Njerama Traditional Dance Group from Mutasa; Stand Up And Rise Up Girls by the Shashi View Girls Club from Chitungwiza; Rega Kuchema (Stop Crying) by the St Lukes Girls Club from Bindura and Mwanasikana Anongoshungurudzwa (A Girl Child Is Always Troubled) by the St Oswald Primary Girls Club from Mhondoro.

Commenting on music that is played on local radio, Ms Makoni said "urban grooves" - a Zimbabwean urban music style - is not gender sensitive and degrades women. She said: "girls are portrayed as sex objects (chimoko and chi-danger) and there is blame placed on the girl". In an effort to counter this negative portrayal of girls Ms Makoni urged the girls to spread positive messages in their own words and voices and thus the Girl Child network music album became a reality.

Betty Makoni is also Chairperson of the Women’s Coalition, an organisation that works with Zimbabwean women in achieving gender equity and equality.

For her tireless efforts in promoting the rights of the girl child, the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) has renamed one of their awards for Prevention of Child Abuse Activities, the Prize Betty Makoni.

The Girl Child Network music album is available at their offices in Zimbabwe.

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