Fifteen journalists, 15 voices for girls and women

Thursday, 5 March 2015 21:05 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

On this International Women’s Day, Women Deliver is celebrating 15 journalists who are going places others won’t to cover the health, rights and wellbeing of girls and women

The best journalists are society’s watchdogs. They shine a light on vital and overlooked issues, challenge the way we think and most importantly, inspire us to act.

On this International Women’s Day, Women Deliver is celebrating 15 journalists who are going places others won’t – often putting their own lives at risk – to cover the health, rights and wellbeing of girls and women.

From Argentina to India, these 15 journalists are delivering for girls and women; they are using the media to expose injustices, champion women and demand action from local and global policymakers. Here’s just a glimpse of how our 15 honorees are making girls and women priorities in newsrooms around the globe:

Honoree Allyn Gaestel, is a 27-year old, freelance journalist known for going the extra mile to uncover the truth about taboo topics from the silent abortion crisis in Nigeria to violence against pregnant women in India.

One of her most recognizable pieces of work for The New York TimesIn Nepal, Exiled Each Month – is a short documentary on “chaupadi,” an outlawed but still commonly practiced tradition in rural Nepal. The tradition forbids menstruating women from sleeping inside their homes because they are deemed impure and bad luck.

Each month, women are forced to sleep in sheds despite dangers of sexual assault and abuse. Allyn’s stories are difficult to uncover and even harder to tell, but that does not inhibit her reporting. In fact, Allyn often spends several months living in the communities she covers to fully understand and accurately report on the challenges girls and women face each day.

In Pakistan, honoree Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam’s pieces are often rejected by editors because the topics are dubbed “too controversial.” Farahnaz, however, is never deterred. Fueled by the courageous women she writes about, Farahnaz continues to report on girls’ and women’s lives and pushes her editors until her stories make it to print.

One of Farahnaz’s more provocative pieces portrays the brave journey of “M,” a woman who was gang-raped and refused to let her attackers go free. For three days, M and her husband went to the police station to file a report, but they were repeatedly ignored. On the fourth day, M staged a protest in the Tharparkar district of the Sindh province demanding action. Farahnaz investigated and published M’s story, which ultimately, gave M a powerful platform to seek and obtain justice and put the perpetrators behind bars.  

Some of our honorees have been inspired by their own experiences. Mae Azango’s resolute reporting is a product of her own harrowing experiences as a pregnant teenager during Liberia’s civil war. Mae nearly died during childbirth because of poor delivery care. Since then, she has used journalism to cover maternal health, as well as many other issues impacting girls and women in Liberia.

For one story, Mae went undercover to write a tell-all piece about female genital mutilation (FGM). After the piece was published, her life was threatened and she was forced into hiding for over a month. Despite this, her story garnered international attention and encouraged the Liberian government to ban the licensing of traditional institutions where the horrific practice is performed.    

It’s not just women though who are reporting on these issues. For more than decade, honoree Brian Mutebi from Uganda has traveled to remote and dangerous places to provoke and stimulate change through his articles on girls’ and women’s health and rights.

One of Brian’s most compelling pieces featured a letter written by 13-year old refugee girl, Chantal Zawadi, to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon describing life in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. By sharing her letter, Brian helped Chantal reach thousands more readers with her pleas for peace. His article also gave Chantal a stage to call on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to ensure that her, and many girls like her, have an opportunity to finish their education and pursue their dreams.

This is the type of journalism we need more of: stories that show readers life through girls’ and women’s eyes. Our honorees are doing their part to inform the public and drive positive change. Now it’s time for media’s gatekeepers – editors, publishers and producers – to join them. A world where girls’ and women’s health and rights make headlines is a better world for us all.

To learn more about our incredible honorees and vote for the journalist that inspires you the most, please visit Women Deliver’s website. The top three journalists will receive a scholarship to Women Deliver’s 2016 conference in Copenhagen, Denmark 18-20 May, where thousands of global leaders from every sector – including the media – will determine how we can best deliver for girls and women everywhere. 

Katja Iversen is Chief Executive Officer of Women Deliver