Susan notes: This is an open letter from Zimbabwean girls’ and women’s rights activist Betty Makoni to American women congratulating them on the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Betty Makoni
is a rape survivor and a champion of girls’ and women’s rights in
Southern Africa. I have created links in the letter to items that I
thought might be of interest to you.
Dear Sisters in USA,
Warm greetings !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yesterday we were all glued to Botswana television, as we watched USA make
history on the Inauguration of its first young, energetic,
intelligent, black president.
It has been customary for me now to follow every story of the Obama
girls when they take to the world stage with their dad, and that marks
also a new beginning for all girls in the world – that yes we can do
it, and what our fathers do we can do also!!!!!!!!!!
Sisters, we want to congratulate you for the new era of hope and
change, and it is always great to cast a vote for someone you want to
see president and that vote is not rigged.
As I listened to Obama speak, though he did not mention names, I
thought here in Africa his message was very clear on what leadership
should all about. Leaders in our part of the world here must unclench
their fists, and stop blaming the West for their own manmade disasters.
Also the message on food on the farms and clean running water was not
directed to anyone in particular, but we all embraced it in Zimbabwe
because where I stayed myself I had no running water for a year, and
now Zimbabwe has been struck very hard with a cholera epidemic.
Lets hope our leaders in Africa embraced this message !!!!!!!
Just last year I had a rare opportunity to be invited by the current
Vice President Joe Biden`s office to testify to the US senate on the International Violence against Women Act (IVAWA),
whose campaign had reached an advanced stage but I could not come
because last minute this was postponed due to the election campaigns
going on by then.
Now that the elections are over, maybe sisters in the US can help us
track this vision by your current Vice President because he was the
biggest sponsor of this Bill which when passed into law will support
groups like Girl Child Network working so hard to stop violence against women and girls in Africa.
Also it would make it possible for US to intervene within six months in cases like Jestina Mukoko`s when women human rights defenders are incarcerated. (AWR
notes: Jestina Mukoko is Zimbabwean human rights activist that was
kidnapped in December, and beaten and tortured, but was thankfully
released alive after being held for more than a month.)
We are fully aware of the many challenges our sisters in the US have to
deal with during this transition, and we will be with you in spirit and
learn from your coping mechanisms.
Once again congratulations our sisters because every time I received
emails from many of you or when we met, you just sounded anxious and
hoped for something new, and so yesterday rest assured you will all be
It is so interesting how our countries are in the same universe, but so different.
I counted that since 1980 when I turned 11 and till now 2009 which is
29 years, you sisters in the US have had more than 10 presidents.
Now I am 37 years old and turning 38 this year and my son, who turned
13 recently, and myself have had ONLY ONE PRESIDENT in our lifetime. It
is quite possible that my grandchildren will be so lucky to see the
same president in the next ten years, and so three generations of us
will have one president.
However I have been lucky because I have been in neighboring beautiful
and democratic Botswana, and saw presidents do transitions smoothly and
its people protected by the government. This also ushers hope for
Africa because leading democratic countries like Bostwana are good
examples of what Africa can do if committed.
Congratulations to you sisters, and Michelle Obama too !!!!!! Your new
administration has women and girls and children at heart and so for the
next few years we will work closely together to overcome the challenges
women and girls face in both our countries.
Well again and again congratulations sisters !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Muzvare Betty Makoni
Freelance Defender for Rape Survivors