Final 48 Hours! Vote Girl Child Network’s Betty Makoni CNN Hero ’09!

bettyCNNNov. 17, 2009 Last week, when the Guardian reported, “Tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused in Zimbabwe in a growing epidemic that has shocked human rights activists,” I blinked back my tears of outrage, knowing full well that this is the battle Betty Makoni has been fighting for an entire DECADE with The Girl Child Network.

Betty is a Top Ten CNN Hero of the Year 2009, having rescued more than 35,000 girls since 2001. I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for people to vote time and again to support her work providing a haven for young victims of sexual abuse before this Thursday when voting ends. (results announced Thanksgiving)

Frankly, I’m not sure why CNN would cast their ten honorees into a people’s choice social media blitz in  vote ten times a day tell all your friends’ style, because the most tireless, deserving, doggedly influential leaders could be passed over for those with a more equipped social media team. But then, I’m biased, as the Girl Child Network Worldwide stands for hope and healing amidst atrocities of abuse in their most heinous forms.

bettyWhat’s happening with the HIV/AIDS transmissions and sexual defiling of innocent  children is is an affront to humanity as a whole and a sorry snapshot of the human condition…

It’s only now that Betty Makoni’s work is starting to get media coverage with raised awareness despite epic fervor of the few leaders brave enough to take on the government firsthand…

She’s clearly a global hero, one of THE deserving leaders…

Another one is our own Shaping Youth advisor and documentary producer Michealene Cristini Risley who captured Betty’s GCN story on film (and had her keister tossed in the slammer for it to boot; remember this story I wrote about her jail time?

And if we can get you to cast your vote for Betty Makoni to be awarded CNN Hero ’09, we’re hoping it will shine a spotlight directly into the eyes of these horrid child abusers, to elevate the conversation weaving “Tapestries of Hope” rather than despair…

Tapestries of Hope is now winning awards on the film festival circuit and coming to an art house near you…so watch their site…

toh banner

So, tweet it, vote it, ‘digg it,’ link it, view it, and help us help those children far out of our reach…

The following stories give you a glimpse of the girls’ lives, and many more have been posted on the wall of Betty Makoni’s Facebook page turning terror into triumph in heroic epic recovery.

I’m pleased to announce as an alum of the Women Leaders of the World program, I’ll be working with many of the delegates from Africa this December, when hosts the 2009 women worthy of support, taking next steps to bring peace and justice to their homelands. I nominated these two amazing women, but they’ve been so busy DOING their work, they didn’t have time to apply! (maybe next year, ladies?) Meanwhile…

I should add that the grizzly case of 5-year old Shaniya Davis serves as a bracer that sexual abuse and girl-child trafficking happens smack dab on these shores too.

To honor her memory today, we’ll be adding a screening of GEMS Girls film, “Very Young Girls” to our educational outreach over winter break in house party/roundtable style.

According to

• The Department of Justice estimates the most frequent age of entry into the commercial sex industry in the United States is 12-14 years old

• Approximately 325,000 children in the United States are subjected to sexual exploitation each year

• According to a 2007 report from the NYS Office of Children and Family Services, over 2,200 children are victimized through commercial sexual exploitation in NYC

So this is not a ‘close your eyes/only in Africa’ story…The vile acts are just raging rampant there fueled by added layer of  myth complexity and social upheaval.

in-her-shoes.gifHow can you best impart the cause to kids in your world?

No one says you have to be graphic and horrific…By putting teens “in someone else’s shoes” they learn peer to peer about issues outside their insular worlds…lack of free speech, education, village living conditions, hunger or disease in global pockets, it’s eye-opening, creative, and even helps kids’ presentation skills in house party style. (the visual is an amazing venue itself to open up such a conversation or create a similar theme in your own home; it’s called In Her Shoes a boutique/space for hire that donates 100% of their profits to Global Fund for Women!) And for the ‘bubble wrap’ brigade, lest you think teen girls ‘can’t handle’ such prickly conversation, here’s the post I wrote about ways to frame the discussion into an “in her shoes” girls-helping-girls across continents palatability.

You’d be surprised at how fast sisterhood surfaces in solidarity when people put their own siblings and faces into those shoes.

Girls are willing and able to rise up to this challenge…and feel ‘less helpless’ by helping girls hands-on in any way they can!

Forbes noted last Friday in reference to the new White House Project study benchmarking women’s leadership:

“Across almost all fields women’s progress into leadership positions has stalled…Where are the other women leaders?”

You now can say unequivocally…I know where ONE of ‘em is…She’s up for CNN Hero 2009…Now let’s make it happen. Social media mavens? Nonprofit Media Queen Beth Kanter, could you lend your skill sets for a tweet or two?

Rev up your tweetin’ and get the word out to vote for Betty Makoni founder of the Girl Child Network Worldwide for CNN Hero 2009 by Thursday…

Children will have much to be thankful for with fresh funding if she wins when it’s announced on Thanksgiving.

I’m thankful she’s championed change this long, and gotten this far…and now Michealene is spreading the word using media as the voice for solidarity for all women and children caught in this horrific web.

Both Betty & Michealene will be in S.F. Dec. 1, 2009, at a screening of the film, so I can’t wait! Meanwhile, here’s the official hot off the press Tapestries of Hope movie teaser with Michealene Cristini Risley & Betty Makoni giving you a glimpse behind the scenes of what they went through just bringing the film to fruition! Please support them…

Related Resources Betty Makoni, Girl Child Network

CNN Heroes: Ordinary Heroes, Extraordinary Impact

Vote for Betty Makoni, CNN Hero 2009

Girl Child Network Worldwide

Shaping Youth Via Tapestries of Hope

Shaping Youth Through Philanthropic Fun (in her shoes convos)

Tapestries of Hope/Michealene Cristini Risley

Michealene’s Open Letter to President Mugabe

Gratitude Musings After Incarceration in Zimbabwe

Media Blog Awards: New Communications Review Salutes Tapestries of Hope

Cinematical: Review of the Teaser Trailer

Sundance Film Festival

The Survivor Personality

More About Betty & Her Work:

Girl Child Network Zimbabwe Unveils New Executive Director

World Children’s Prize newsletter excerpt on Betty Makoni

Betty Makoni in Unsung Heros 2009

Betty Makoni and 22 million children’s prize

Coverage for Betty Makoni CNN Top Ten Hero, ZBNNEWS, November 13, 2009.

CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute, CNN US, November 26-30, 2009.

On Canadian television the founder of the Girl Child Network talks about what drives her: October 22, 2009. Video

Meet Betty Makoni, Afronews, 11-2-2009 (Online)

Meet Betty Makoni, Afronews, 11-2-2009 (Print)

See the links section on GCN’s site for more ways to help!



  1. Honored to receive this lovely message from Betty on her Facebook wall….

    Also, Betty has just returned from Canada as keynote speaker at the 60 million girls foundation, sharing her personal story of how she struggled to pay her school fees The org presented a cheque of 5-figures to be given to GCN Zimbabwe to support the girls’ education & healing…

    Last 24 hours to vote, so rack ’em up! 🙂 Oblige, Amy

  2. Breaking news…this just in from the FB tribe for Betty’s bunch…

    “Thank you for voting for supporting Betty Makoni as CNN Hero 2009.

    The gala event was taped on Saturday at the Kodak theatre in Hollywood, where the Oscars are held. As one of CNN’s ten heroes, Betty was featured and received $25,000 presented by Nicole Kidman.

    Her votes put her close to being Hero of the year, but in the end that award went to Efren Pinaflorida, an amazing young man who works with street kids in Manila. The vote was never about winning or losing; but honoring all the heroes.

    As a group, we did a great job in honoring Betty and raising awareness of the issue of child rape in Zimbabwe. We generated tremendous support for the Girl Child Network and gave them a voice.

    Please watch CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute which airs in North America on Thursday November 26th at 9pm EST and in the UK on Friday November 27th at 8pm.

    I personally enjoyed every minute of the campaign, especially the new friends I made around the world. I will continue to support the cause in any way I can. This group will now be closed; but let’s continue the work we started. Please join one or all of the following Facebook groups:

    Girl Child Network:;

    Tapestries of Hope:;

    Rebuild Zimbabwe:;

    I’ll be watching for sure…and can’t wait to meet up with Betty and Michealene et al next week in S.F. at the Tapestries of Hope screening! 🙂

    Much to be thankful for…Rock on, dear Betty et al…
    .-= Amy Jussel´s last blog ..Internet Safety: Media Literacy Tips From Industry Insiders Pt 1 =-.

  3. Shaping Youth … is doing agreat job especially Amy Jussel.

    We want to join hands and see how we can expand working together.

    Review our 4.4 min video EMPOWERING RURAL INDIA’S GIRL-CHILD

  4. Awww, thanks…but I don’t know about ‘especially’ since I’m kinda ‘the only’ 😉 heh. Seriously though, we’re lean-n-mean, small but mighty, with a wow-pow advisory board and lotsa heart (seeking interns too) Your video is compelling…I’d like to join hands too…Starting with and global outreach with our Women Leaders for the World program (I’m a graduate of their incubator for startups/actionists) They ROCK! I can connect you with Rashmi & Chaya & our other WLW pals doing great things in rural India! 🙂 Thx for the outreach…Any way I can be of service, please let me know!! 🙂

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