In the new documentary titled "Tapestries of Hope" the rape survivors of Zimbabwe come across the screen showing their fortitude and strong spirits. The creators of the website, The WIP, hosted a special screening of the documentary last year with director/producer Michaelene Cristini Risley in attendance, along with the documentary’s main subject Betty Makoni, founder of the Girl Child Network (GCN).
WIP writer Jessica Mosby spoke with Risley about the film. All of the rape survivors - some as young as three years old – are victims of sexual abuse, motivated in great part by the belief that having sex with a virgin will cure a man of HIV/AIDS. Zimbabwe’s traditional healers propagate the myth about the healing powers of virgin blood, common throughout Africa.
Young rape survivors in Zimbabwe are ostracized by their families. Tragically many get AIDS and become pregnant by their rapists.
According to Mosby, life for women in Zimbabwe “is a constant barrage of abuse and obstacles.” Female circumcision is “socially accepted and widespread. Basic necessities like new underwear and menstruation supplies are considered luxuries; monthly menstruation is so debilitating that it keeps many girls out of school because they lack necessary provisions.” Mosby goes on to say that Makoni and the girls at GCN are representative of the power of hope and perseverance.
Director Risley sees a bright future for these girls. She is working on two pieces of legislation: the first is The International Violence Against Women Act, and the second involves legislation that will put money in NGO hands, as opposed to the government. That money would provide support that can help women and children.
Risley wants viewers of the movie to walk away from it feeling that they can do something positive , such as calling their representatives to demand that the Violence Against Women Act be passed by the U.S. (It has not been ratified.) But she definitely wants viewers to witness the girls’ tenacity and their strength.