Each day globally, thousands of young girls are raped and put through one form of brutal gendered violence or the other. These forms of brutality bites into these girls souls and many of these girls grow up being scared of men, love and all emotions that can be derived within the intersection of men and women. For many of these girls, there is a circle of silence around certain issues which is passed on from generation to generation. Almost akin to the don’t ask, don’t tell policy but in this case girls cannot speak out about violence and this open sore is passed on as a form of legacy. Betty Makoni is challenging the status quo by turning this system of patriarchal silencing on its head and making people question cultural practices that are considered normative.
Betty Makoni has been recognized globally for her work with girls in Zimbabwe and now in different parts of Africa. She has been criticized, analyzed, stalked, threatened and her work put in jeopardy but she is still standing strong because she believes that these girls have the right to want, achieve more and they need to have that space where they can contribute to society as individuals. This issue is one that is quite personal to Ms. Makoni. She was a victim of rape at the age of six but rather than remain a victim, she chose to turn her story to one of victory while helping female survivors of rape and other forms of social maltreatment stand up and be victorious.
On Saturday June 16th at the SGI in New York City, Ms. Makoni gave a speech at the annual Juneteenth ceremony. Juneteenth “also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the United States honoring African American heritage by commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. State of Texas in 1865“ (wikipedia). This is a day in which we as people of color (this word color is very flexible) get to meditate on our freedoms and what it really means. For those that want to think deeper, this is also a time in which many ask themselves what they are doing with these freedoms.
Ms. Makoni reminded us that many are still slaves under cultural institutions in which speaking up or fighting back as a female isn’t encouraged and in some cases is a taboo. She reminded us that in certain religious ‘Christian’ institutions many young girls below the age of consent are given off as sexual slaves to older men of God in many countries in Africa, like Zimbabwe. She reminded us that there are women who are being beaten everyday and some killed. Her mother’s death occurred as a result of domestic violence. She reminded us that for many young girls being raped is a daily fear and for some a routine, not having access to education and not having equal access to what their other gendered counterparts take for granted is normative in different parts of Africa. It was a reminder that the freedoms we take for granted in the ‘developed’ world is what many young girls are dreaming about in Africa.
Now, when we discuss African feministic or womanistic ideas there seems to be some divisions. There are those that hold that traditional systems that we have in place are empowering and that our interpretations of empowerment might be skewed because we view the word empowerment from a Western mind set while there are those who believe that the system that we had in the past might have worked then but in today’s world, there needs to be an extra push to empower girls and it doesn’t really matter if the ideology is African based or Western based. All these ideas can be quite confusing. The bottom line really is this: is the girl child being helped? Is she made to understand that she is valuable in today’s society? That her worth is not based on what society deems feminine (motherhood, sex partner, great cook) but that she has the space to define herself outside these roles. That’s where the girl child network comes into play.
The girl child network aims to give the girl child a voice and a place in society. That she can walk around and be who she wants to be without fear of being raped, beaten or given off to an older pastor as a sex slave. The girl child network aims to even the disparity that often exists in Africa in terms of gender. The girl child network is a grassroot movement which aims to correct generations of wrongs. You can read up on how much work is being done and choose to make a difference. Click link
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 19 June 2012 09:44 )