Betty Makoni

Ashoka Fellow
Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe
Fellow Since 2007


This profile was prepared when Betty Makoni was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
In mainstream Zimbabwean society, there are few spaces—either public or private—in which girls can express themselves on equal footing with their male counterparts. Limited both by their own lack of self-assurance and by societal expectations, they are often left to pursue only standard domestic female roles or teaching positions. The Girl Child Network (GCN) works to build girls’ confidence by providing safe spaces for self-expression, and to dismantle culturally held gender stereotypes through a variety of public outreach campaigns.

Initially established to provide support for girls experiencing violence and sexual abuse, the clubs have taken on the role of empowering a new generation of young women. From these initial school-based support groups stem additional support programs, including trauma counseling and legal assistance for victims of abuse, improved access to information, and networking. Recognizing that a society-wide reduction in gender-based discrimination is likewise needed to improve women’s status, Betty develops advocacy campaigns, media projects, and works with community leaders to change widely held cultural beliefs. Graduates of the program offer critical support through an active alumni network, serving as valuable spokesmodels for the program and its philosophy in their new homes and workplaces.

The GCN approaches are consciously designed to shift girls’ place in the home, school, and community, thereby ensuring systemic change over the long-term. Beginning in a single school, the GCN now operates in the majority of Zimbabwe’s rural districts with 450 clubs serving 30,000 young girls, and is poised for regional expansion in Southern Africa.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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