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CNN Hero Betty Makoni Comes to Dormont With 'Tapestries of Hope' Fundraiser

Betty Makoni will be on hand to answer questions when an award-winning film about the continuing myth in Africa that raping a virgin will cure AIDS is shown at the Hollywood Theater on Thursday.

Betty Makoni, who is leading a global effort to stop the rape of women and girls in Africa, will be on hand this Thursday, Sept. 22, when the award-winning film, “Tapestries of Hope,” is shown at the Hollywood Theater, 1449 Potomac Ave., in Dormont.

Dream Catchers Films Inc. is sponsoring the 74-minute documentary as a fundraiser for the Girl Child Network, which Makoni, who was named a 2009 CNN Hero, created to provide shelters for abused girls. Dream Catchers’ owner Leonard Lies, who is a filmmaker himself, said he was so moved by “Tapestries of Hope” that he decided to bring it to the Hollywood Theater to help the cause.

A “meet-and-greet” event with Makoni starts at 6 p.m., featuring music and appetizers, including Italian and Ethiopian finger foods. The film will be shown at 7 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session with Makoni. 

Tickets are $20 each and all proceeds benefit the Girl Child Network. Tickets are available in Lies’ film production company at 3041 West Liberty Ave. in Dormont, the theater or can be purchased online at http://tapestriesofhopefundraiser.eventbrite.com/.

Lies explains that because of the AIDS epidemic in Makoni’s native Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa, people put faith in the medicine healers. When infected men go to the healers, they are told, “Here’s what you do to get rid of the AIDS.”

And the myth they are told—that raping a virgin and mixing their bloods will cure AIDS—has affected 1-year-old girls and 90-year-old women. But those affected are mostly young girls ranging in age from 10 to 18.

The film, by Michealene Christini Risley exposes the myth. In fact, as she filmed Makoni’s work in Zimbabwe, Risley and her aide were jailed and their film seized by officials, but they managed to retrieve the footage before being deported.

“Thousands and thousands of girls—maybe millions at this point—have been raped,” Lies says.

He says women are treated as “third-class citizens,” so complaining to the police is futile. 

Makoni, who was raped at age 6 and orphaned at age 9, has built four Girls Empowerment Villages in her native country to provide survivors with a sanctuary for healing and education.

Lies, who is also on the board of Friends of the Hollywood Theater, says Makoni saw girls give up hope, sometimes committing suicide or finding their way into slave trade. She reached out, took them in, fed them, educated them, taught them about health needs. That led to the formation of the Girl Child Network.

More than 60,000 girls are served through 700 Girls Clubs, where they learn about rape, incest, prostitution, HIV/AIDS, forced early marriage and other safety issues.

“She became so popular in Zimbabwe, the president was afraid she’d run for president,” Lies explains.

A bounty was put on her head and she fled to England. Makoni is also speaking this week at the University of Pittsburgh’s international conference on human rights violations and at a WQED/Girls Coalition event on Friday.

Lies says a number of volunteers have given their time to help bring the film to Dormont.

Diana D'Agostino, an assistant at , says she compiled a brochure, "Gender-Based Violence as a Global Issue,” for distribution at the event. The brochure has worldwide statistics about gender-based violence, including in the U.S., where one woman is severely beaten by a husband or boyfriend every 15 seconds and one is a victim of rape or sexual assault every 90 seconds. 

“It’s exciting for me because Dream Catchers is supporting something that makes a difference,” Lies says. “When human beings are being brutalized, it’s time to pay attention.”

In addition to Dream Catchers and the Hollywood Theater, event sponsors include Abay Ethiopian Restaurant, Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen, Groceria Mercante, LTA Communications, Terray Creative and .

farai katiro September 20, 2011 at 06:38 AM
Well done Betty. I believe this will go a long way to help our vulnerable girls in Zimbabwe. Together we can make a difference. Farai. www.asym.org

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