Girl Child Network

The need to establish an organization to champion the rights of girl children in Zimbabwe was perceived in 1998 by Betty Makoni after listening to the horrifying experiences of ten of her female students. Her personal experiences of abuse as a child further fueled her determination. An informal discussion group was subsequently created to provide a safe forum for girls to meet and talk freely about their problems and devise possible solutions. This initial group became the first girls’ empowerment club in Zimbabwe. In March of 1999 Girl Child Network (GCN) was formally established with the specific mandate to be a voice for the voiceless, particularly school-aged girls between the ages of 0 – 16-years-old. The organization was born out of the helplessness and hopelessness of the girl child in Zimbabwe, with the objective to assist girls in their quest for emancipation. GCN set out to advocate on behalf of girls and to empower them to speak out when their rights were being violated. Therein the previously forgotten girl child was able to highlight her plight regarding sensitive issues like rape, HIV/AIDS, forced marriages, premarital sex and also effectively communicate her hopes and aspirations. By the end of 1999, there were at least 10 active clubs in Chitungwiza, and in 2000 GCN began building Girls Empowerment Villages that served as ‘safe houses’ where survivors of rape and sexual abuse could seek refuge and rehabilitation. To break the silence, the founding members, 500 girls, and a few gender-sensitive men, women and boys undertook a 17-day march against child sexual abuse, covering 290 kilometers from Chitungwiza to Mutare, proving itself a true champion of girls` rights.

In 2006 GCN was firmly established in Zimbabwe and indeed became a household name. By July 2006, over 30,000 girls belonged to some 500 GCNW clubs in Zimbabwe, spread over 35 of Zimbabwe’s 58 districts. Today, the number of girls joining GCNW has grown and many girls` clubs and initiatives, with the purpose of fundraising on behalf of girls, are sprouting up around the globe with over 900 girls’ empowerment clubs in Africa alone. Other countries with clubs involved or affiliated with GCNW include Uganda, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Ethiopia, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. Girls everywhere are taking the initiative and mobilizing to defend their rights. Clearly, girl child empowerment is spreading like wildfire. The idea to expand GCN into Girl Child Network Worldwide (GCNW) was conceived in September 2007 by Betty Makoni, and current US-based trustee Leanne Grossman who started fundraising projects to support girls in Zimbabwe who had fallen into disastrous situations for which no one immediately and effectively mobilized. This had a huge impact as the assistance benefitted 160 girls over a three-month period.

GCNW replicates a best practice model that has secured 26 global awards for excellence, innovation, and effectiveness in the delivery of girls` empowerment programs at the local grassroots level. It is a globally acclaimed organization anchored in many parts of the world. It stands as a great inspiration to girls and women who want to actualize their full potential. By taking a unique empowerment and proactive rather than welfarist or reactive approach, GCNW motivates girls to spearhead their own liberation.

The GCNW Empowerment Model has worked very well in Zimbabwe and in other parts of Africa, however, its transformation into GCNW comes at a time when its founding members strongly feel an international platform would unite girls in their activism and allow them to speak out with one well coordinated voice, ensuring a clear worldwide leadership and solidarity on issues affecting the girl child. GCNW is meant to be the centre of coordination and learning, and to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and resources.

We envision a world where girls everywhere are empowered and enjoy their right to walk in the fullness of their potential.

GCNW supports and promotes girls’ rights, empowerment, and education by reaching out to and advancing the circumstances of girls wherever they are economically deprived, at risk of abuse, subject to harmful cultural practices, or living in areas of instability. GCNW funds small grants for girls to finish school, move out of forced sex work or early marriages and start projects to support themselves. GCNW is the training center for new GCN clubs emerging around the world


GCNW continues to accomplish its mission through implementing our core principles:

  1. Integrity— we deliver our programs with truth and openness and know we must remain accountable at all times. Everything we say and do must show that we are open and clean in our words and deeds.
  2. Innovation— new and unique approaches are needed in order to effectively prevent and combat the exploitation of girl children and to aid in the rehabilitation process.
  3. Passion— we do everything from the heart. Our work inspires and is inspired by our personal stories and the stories of the girls we represent.
  4. Commitment— we started as volunteers and we will commit our time and resources above what others contribute.
  5. Excellency— We must be the best in whatever we do. No part of our work is insignificantly done.
  6. Action— we continually strive for concrete results through concrete action.
  7. Empowerment— everyone we work with or target must be able to stand up for themselves, our role being to facilitate this process.
  8. Empathy— the ability to have compassion for the circumstances of other human beings lies at the core of GCNW ideology, the belief being that if empathy were adequately cultivated within individuals and societies, compassion and mutual well-being would prevail. We work to deeply instil this ability in GCNW affiliates.
  9. Teamwork— we believe the solution requires all of us playing a role and that each role is essential.
  10. Learning and Sharing— As we generate and share knowledge it will make us stronger and better. We are an organization that promotes a learning culture.


GCNW is the lead organization in the empowerment of girls worldwide. We empower formerly exploited girls and unleash their potential to become future women leaders. Our specific objectives are:

  1. To identify and support girls who are at risk of, or who have survived gender based violence throughout the world.
  2. To advance girls’ access to education, thereby encouraging the learning and growth of girls individually and collectively
  3. To combat economic and social inequality so as to minimize gender based violence.


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