Betty Makoni, Activist and Humanitarian – In Her Own Words (Part 2)

Muzvare Betty Makoni continues sharing herstory.  As a gender activist who founded the Girl Child Network (GCN), she turned devastating adversity into a strength that is impacting and transforming thousands of lives and the generations that follow.

You may want to read Part 1 here before continuing.

Dealing with Doubt: Self-doubt is something I dealt with single-handedly as a girl. I was confident that I had the brains and capability to achieve academically and I stood by self-belief. Even with the worst insults on my physical appearance especially my faulty teeth which I failed to have fixed as a child due to poverty I kept opening my mouth to speak until people embraced their naturalness. I accepted myself as I am and embraced how unique and natural everything on me was.

Betty Makoni

Betty Makoni in form 3 at St. Dominic’s

But of course issues on fear and negativity are issues I had to deal with. I recall receiving death threats on my phone and at many times being forced to pay life safety fee in Zimbabwe so that I could be allowed to continue with my work and live without being harassed by the Zimbabwe secret service. What made me most fearful was the insecurity and the physical threats on my life and they became more. To be frank after listening to many stories about Zimbabwe Secret Services I just got so terrified and lived like a prisoner in Zimbabwe. The day the Law and Enforcement Order took me to police in 2007 and spent days interrogating me over political issues is the day I feared working in my country of birth. I could not understand why someone like me would think of replacing a life President let alone turning my charity into a political party. To be honest the interrogation over false accusations made me afraid. I had never been so insecure in my life and it was for the first time. I kept asking myself why the biggest Intelligence of a country could be so well misinformed. This is when I realized that someone was an infiltrator in the charity. I did not want to be a dead hero at all. I wanted to live and save girls lives and so I decided to go into self-imposed exile and to another country where I could fear less and allow my vision and passion to be. When I feel place, space, choice and voice is threatened, I find a safer place to do my work. There are many situations that can stop what we do but my intuition knows when, why and how to move from a place of danger to a place of safety. Right now, in the UK, I keep doing my work and I keep helping girls in Africa but I feel very safe. Not a day have my documents been seized or I have been falsely accused and thrown into jail. My freedom is something I value. My life is granted only once and I take full responsibility to be heroic but remain safe.

My Critical Skills: I have used critical thinking as a skill to analyze people, situations, programs and what results I get from my actions. I am a highly emotional person who gets easily moved to do something just by seeing even tears on someone. I am someone who gets easily carried away by a situation but critical analysis skill has helped me to think before taking action.

I am a good communicator, prolific speaker and passionate writer. The new digital world we live in today has helped my advocacy work because I have many mediums of communication to reach the world and share on the plight of the girl child at my disposal unlike before.  I can now speak to thousands of people via internet radio and social media. I can share my written work through books two of which are now available online. I have shifted myself from an invisible activist in one country into a global leader who embraces new technology. I think my greatest skill is the ability to communicate at every level and build informal and formal networks to support my work and that of others.

Using My Mind:   I use appreciative inquiry in whatever I do. This is a skill I developed when I was very young and I have used it in many difficult situations. I always believe that any situation that is a tragedy can be turned into triumph. I believe the impossible can be possible. I believe chaos can be calm. I believe to every problem there is a solution. When I was expelled from school because I could not afford school, I never took this in a negative way like others who then gave up and opted to get married. Rather, I went out to seek a solution by vending on the streets to raise my money for school fees. If I had chosen to go to the brothel for instance, this situation could have been worse by now. So my approach to life is that anything that is negative can be positive only if you take a positive approach and use the best in you to solve the problem.

Things I Would Do Different: There are professional skills I need to develop in me as a human resources manager. I think the biggest mistakes I made in my life is to recruit or approve recruitment of wrong people to work closely with. I underestimated how hard and next to impossible it is to change behavior of an adult.

Performing at My Peak:  I always believe that working informally and without bureaucracy and where I supervise myself and take responsibility of everything I do is the best. I also believe in team building and working with a team that has the same passion and drive. I always choose to be in circles of compassion where everyone is supported and they support each other.

My Dreams and Ambitions: I dream of taking a high position at United Nations one day. I have started working towards strengthening my knowledge as a gender based violence expert with Preventing Sexual Violence started by UK Foreign Office. Of course I will keep my charity as work of passion but I want a position that will give me an opportunity to inform and implement policy and a position that will use my skills and experience to end poverty and violence on women and girls. I have a dream to build the first ever Girls Empowerment and Education Fund to assist girls at risk and those who are in difficult situations. My goal is to save as many lives of girls as I can.

The organisation has so many requests for a global service to rehabilitate rape survivors, build more girls empowerment clubs and train girls to be confident, link girls to resources and the need for girls breaking silence on the abuse they are going through has trebled. At the moment the statistics has given us a global picture that what girls face was not unique to Zimbabwe. Abuse of girls has claimed lives and it is one of those silent global genocides whose magnitude has gone beyond comprehension. Girls as young as 8 years are being married in many parts of Africa and the world. The global crisis on girls is just like that caused by a wide scale Tsunami or earth quake. Whereas an alarm can be done in such situations, you will find with girls it is often silenced about.

You will find out that this era women have been open in sharing their stories and this has greatly inspired girls to do the same. There are many books I have helped launched with inspiring women`s stories. Social media  like Facebook has changed traditional ways of police stations being places where people open up. I receive at least 10 cases of girl child abuse in my inbox only. Whatsup, twitter and many other social media have opened spaces and no wonder we are rolling out training on girl child abuse reported via social media. Yes cases are reported to police as per tradition but many girls know that such cases get stuck and so they are passed on to social media activists like us.

Inspiring Others: I have developed a brand taken from my royal title Muzvare. So far I launched my autobiography and did something I feel will live in history. We had a royal night where everyone came in their best. There was positive energy in the room. After that we made a movie overnight and it now a movie about us all everyone bringing their powerful story. People who came to my event thought it was going to be about me but a surprise from my film shows it is about us. In addition I write poems about all great people I meet and during their events I recite poems of how great they are. It keeps everyone in rhythm of their greatness as opposed to daily negativity they bring. On 5 April 2014 I am launching my third book of poetry bringing out greatness in everyone I met in my life.

My Family: I am married to a gentleman who I love and I keep him in my heart. I have all sons and I wait one day to have daughters in love and not daughters in law.

The Legacy I Want To Leave:  I want the world to remember that I am the girl vendor who survived rape and poverty and was bold enough to start a charity that changed girls lives in simplest of actions. Through my book, Never Again, not to any woman or girl again, I leave over a million inspirational thoughts any woman and girl can inherit on courage, confidence and perseverance. I leave inspiration and the world inspired. All that I want to achieve for other girls and myself is mission accomplished and I pass on the legacy to many other girls. What we can do with passion and not money is so much.  I am happy to have my royal title Muzvare and I leave a great legacy to have passed on the royal title to every girl and woman I meet.

Find out more about Muzvare Betty Makoni here

This inspiring story has been reposted from and with the permission of The Legacy Project :

About Inspired by My Mom

A blog about women and those who inspired them to be the best that they can be. @BettyEitner creator, blogger, editor
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