Try to re-imagine, for a moment, how you felt on your worst day ever. Depending upon the circumstances behind these feelings, they may have been profoundly overwhelming or even life altering. However, for most of us, the ups and downs in our modern lives are not ever so dark or despairing or completely senseless as the circumstances facing the girls in the full-length documentary, “Tapestries of Hope.”
This documentary was directed and co-written in 2009 by Michealene Cristini Risley. Although we have never met, Risley and I do have a number of things in common: we both grew up in Michigan, both graduated from Michigan State University, and both care deeply about issues facing women. Risley bases her film on a trip to Zimbabwe to visit a spirited African woman, Betty Makoni, and her organization, the Girl Child Network (GCN).
The GCN is an unfortunate necessity in Zimbabwe, where a prevalent myth dictates that if a man rapes a virgin, he will be cured of HIV/AIDS. Sadly, this myth is furthered, and perhaps even heinously perpetrated, by local traditional medical practitioners/healers and believed by their male followers. If you have grown up relatively sheltered in a Western country, as I have, you will find yourself aghast at this concept of rape as a prescription for male healing. But the fact that these men not only believe the myth, but also act upon it and commit the illegal act, often on a child, is astonishing and appalling. The rape itself only serves to indelibly harm the girls, and further the disease:
Zimbabwe is in the top five AIDS countries in the world, with some estimating that 80% of adults live with AIDS.*
The GCN is a safe haven for girls who have been raped and abused. The youngest victim is merely 3 years old. To see how little these girls have in the way of material goods and family support is heart wrenching. As in many non-Western countries, in Zimbabwe, females are often blamed for their own rapes and then ostracized from the family and community in the aftermath. Makoni is a hero, as daily she courageously fights against the virgin rape myth and champions the girls she takes into her network.
Risley not only documents these human-rights violations and crimes against humanity, but also connects with the girls at the GCN through her own story to empower them by planting the seeds of hope for a fruitful life. She and Makoni also attempt to educate traditional healers by having them visit the GCN in order to eliminate the virgin rape myth. At one point, both Risley and her assistant were imprisoned in Zimbabwe and their film was confiscated.** Luckily, that film footage was retrieved, and Risley and her assistant were released.
This documentary reminds me that I have much to be grateful for, and perhaps much work to do on my own to help others in the world. Risley and her crew affirm for me that we can all make a difference by taking action. I applaud those many brave people in the world, like Makoni, whose life work is to lend a loving hand to those females in need, and also to reveal and eradicate ignorance that leads to misogyny. I hope that my blog and this post can in some small way help.
If you would like to learn more about this program, become involved in change, or you would also like to donate money, please go to: http://tapestriesofhope.com/take-action/
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