Guest Blogger Meagan Demitz on GPI and Hope
When Cristi first asked me to write a blog about my experiences working with our reporters in East Africa, I took a long while to think about what it was I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it. As I told to the reporters while I was there, it seems a bit ironic to think that I will come back and write a bit about them and about this experience as we sit in our trainings day after day, emphasizing the importance of their voice and their presence on the ground, in their own countries. They laugh and joke along with me, reassuring me that as members, women of the Global Press Institute, we all have a voice. And as such, a responsibility to use it to the best of our own abilities.
This was not the first time I have run trainings for GPI. Last year, in 2010, I worked with one of our partner agencies in South Africa to facilitate a training for young women in South Africa during the World Cup. Although elements of the Ethics Refresher and Writing trainings were similar, these last two trainings with our Kenyan and Ugandan reporters had an entirely different feel. Perhaps because these women were older, more experienced. Or maybe on account of their backgrounds in writing, or the fact that many of them have other careers or jobs some related to journalism and others not.
What really and truly struck me about the reporters in both countries, however, what I am so in awe of even two weeks on from these trainings, is the passion with which these women approach their work – the drive they have to not just be reporters, but to be AMAZING journalists covering intense social issues and diving into stories not because their interesting or curiosity peaking, but because each and every one of them wants to see a tangible social outcome, response, or change as a result of their work. As we were talking about this one day during the writing seminar in Nairobi, I asked one of our reporters, Dorah, what story it was that she was most proud of writing during her tenure with GPI. Without hesitation, she responded, “the story I did on palliative care for ill children here in Kenya…here is this terrible circumstance, I spoke to a mother who was watching her child die and just trying to ease her pain…I wanted to speak for her. I wanted to give her a voice – I wanted to give all of them a voice.”
And so she did. It struck me on that day and every day I was in Nairobi and Kampala, that this is why these women work for GPI. This is more than a pay-check, it is more than a steady job. Yes, GPI provides and incredible service by training and employing these women across the world. Yes, the organization markedly improves the lives of its reporters and by proxy their families and communities. But sitting there speaking to our reporters face to face, talking to their families, seeing them in their own homes and in the context of their own countries, that is blatantly not why they are here. These women are here because they have something to say, to shout even, to the world about what is happening on the ground in their communities. They want to catalyze change and make a statement. About Kenya? Uganda? Women? About all of it. And to see it in real-time, right there in our little training room at the YMCA in Nairobi, and the FemRite library in Kampala…I can’t even describe to you how empowering it felt to ME and I was, in some way, merely an observer to this whole process.
I had a professor in graduate school, Dr. Margaret Lombe, who has spent years working and studying social work both in Africa and the United States. Every week, in her course that covered humanitarian aid and development work across the developing world, she used to ask us a question: Are you hopeful? Are you hopeful about the future of this world that seems at times, to be coming apart at the seems? Are you hopeful that you, that someone, is making a difference? That someone is making it better…
Joanne. Dorah. Irene. Sarah. Rose. Stella. Sophie. Mary. Beatrice. Jackee. Apophia. Angelina. 12 faces of hope. 12 faces of change. 12 reminders to me why Global Press Institute exists. 12 reasons I am so grateful to Cristi for having the courage to give these women, and 115 more in 21 other countries, a platform for their voices.
So how would I sum up these trainings? With that one word: Hope. Because at the end of the day, that’s really what this organization is all about. It’s the tie that binds, the thread that holds all of us who are part of this amazing group together across continents, and across cultures. It’s what keeps us all moving forward each day – the promise that we are making a difference together, one story, one woman, and one life at a time.
A huge thank you to all the GPI women out there for continuing to inspire hope in all of us.