Meeting the Moment

2021 Impact Report

decorative background image
decorative background image

A word from our executive director

As the pandemic persisted and global unrest created new dangers in 2021, women journalists needed critical aid – and the IWMF was there for them.

Journalists came to us for help navigating the crisis in Afghanistan, working in divisive spaces in the U.S. and avoiding lasting harm from online violence.

The IWMF’s growth during the pandemic – plus decades of experience, open lines of communication and trusted funder support – allowed us to respond without hesitation to protect journalists and their livelihoods.

We also invested in high-impact projects, in particular those led by journalists of color – like URL Media, a network of high-performing Black and Brown media outlets founded by Sara Lomax-Reese and S. Mitra Kalita, and Maritza L. Félix and Valeria Fernández‘s Comadres al Aire podcast, a candid discussion about women’s health with Latinx immigrant communities.

Seeing journalists like Cherri Gregg – who attended the inaugural Transom Storytelling Mentorship program with our support – land a job as an anchor at Philadelphia’s WHYY News following her time in the program makes it all worthwhile.

And we continued to be a leading funder of award-winning, women-produced news content covering a broad range of global issues. Our grantees won 10 industry awards this year alone.

The news media will not be balanced or representative unless our support is equity-centered and community-led. Global citizens want to see their own experiences reflected in the news. And with women and nonbinary journalists in the cross-hairs of much of the mis- and disinformation flooding our spaces, the IWMF’s approach is more important than ever.

Read on for our 2021 stories of change – and join us in celebrating the collaborators that made them possible.

With gratitude and grace.

Elisa Lees Muñoz, Executive Director

Rapid Response

About the IWMF: Our Impact

As conflicts erupted around the world in 2021, local journalists flooded the IWMF with requests for PPE, transport, visas, emergency funding and more. Our mission is to keep these storytellers in the field, but we also exist to protect their livelihoods in a crisis.

As U.S. troops departed Afghanistan in the summer of 2021 the IWMF stepped in directly and in collaboration with other humanitarian aid organizations to support journalists in every way possible. We assisted with evacuation efforts, aided in calls for open borders and asylum provisions, and provided critical day-to-day support ranging from lodging to topping off data plans and finding safe housing. Some women journalists are in still exile and depend on our emergency funds for survival.

While the situation for women journalists in Afghanistan continues to darken, the IWMF persists in working with our contacts on the ground to support in any way we can.

decorative orange burst
decorative orange burst

Over $20,000 in Emergency Fund support went to journalists in Myanmar in the wake of February’s military coup and crack-down on independent media.

In March, the IWMF joined other press freedom organizations in denouncing the detention of at least 38 journalists and delicensing of several independent outlets in Myanmar. Freelance producer Htet Htet Khine, arrested in Myanmar in August, was highlighted by the One Free Press Coalition as among the world’s most urgent press freedom cases.

decorative orange burst


In 2021 our Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund provided almost $150,000 in support to journalists in Kenya, Canada, Botswana, South Africa, Turkey and the U.S. Recipients reported experiencing trauma from covering police violence and unrest, hostile work environments and harassment from the far-right; many lacked health insurance. 

decorative orange burst

When protestors filled the streets of Colombia in April, the IWMF joined local partners in organizing and delivering a safety training for 150 journalists across the country.

Colombian journalist and 2001 Courage in Journalism Award winner Jineth Bedoya Lima, who was kidnapped and assaulted in 2000, finally saw justice in 2021 when the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the Colombian government responsible and ordered reparations. 

decorative orange burst

In the fall, Jineth traveled to the U.S. and presented the IWMF with an official receipt of justice in recognition of our role in supporting her fight for her freedom. 

decorative orange burst
The IWMF Emergency Fund provided
Over $3.2M in direct support
to 4,260 journalists in 124 countries in 2021

Combatting Online Violence

The IWMF led the creation of the Coalition Against Online Violence, and together with its members in 2021 we launched the Online Violence Response Hub as a single stop for journalists experiencing hate and attacks online. Downloadable tools include a Know Your Rights guide, practical tips for responding to harassment and a checklist for gender-safe newsroom policies.

In just 5 months, this rich collection of resources attracted

35K visits
Views from every continent except Antarctica
Amplification from >130 stakeholders

Our first-ever Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign issued a call to join the Coalition Against Online Violence, now more than 50 organizations strong.

"It's Not Just Another Tweet" PSA Campaign

Demonstrating the dire need for news media to come together to support women’s safety online, our PSA ambassadors and friends – like journalists Nima Elbagir and Alice Su – faced a barrage of abuse for sharing our new support resource, including being called “notorious liars” who should “leave the profession if you can’t handle it.”

The coalition remains undaunted: 

Safety Training

The IWMF held:

32 Safety Trainings in 2021
14 Digital Safety - 570 Journalists Trained
18 Physical Safety - 964 Journalists Trained

Inclusive Safety Training

Journalism safety trainings are largely led by white, cisgender men – a reality that Buzzfeed’s head of high risk deemed a security risk itself. So the IWMF partnered with ROAAAR to launch Next Gen Safety Trainers, a new model for journalism safety advising that honors the evolution of the newsroom by diversifying trainers and expanding the traditional HEFAT program.  

Our first cohort of 16 women and nonbinary media professionals experienced an intersectional program, developed by ROAAAR’s Ali Baskerville and team, which includes training on the risks of reporting in the U.S., digital safety and threats that LGBTQI+, BIPOC and women journalists experience in the field. The course prepares journalists to lead HEFAT courses themselves, consult and assume safety roles. After the course: 

In 2021 we opened applications for the third cohort of our Gwen Ifill Mentorship Program, which pairs diverse young journalists with leaders in the field for advice and support. 

Online Safety Courses

decorative orange burst

The IWMF’s courses prepared more than 3000 journalists to be safer online in 2021.

Impact Stories

The IWMF provided journalists with opportunity through 315 fellowships, 100 reporting grants and 8 awards in 2021.

decorative orange burst

S. Mitra Kalita launched URL Media, a decentralized platform for Black and Brown media outlets, with the help of $20,000 in seed funding from the IWMF. [Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists Grantee]

decorative orange burst

Carmen Valeria Escobar Castillo’s story on El Salvadoran environmental activist Sonia Sánchez,  published in Revista GatoEncerrado, was shortlisted for the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award and featured at the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference. [Expresate LGBTQIA+ & Women’s Rights Reporting Program Fellow].

decorative orange burst

Reporting on widows in Kenya who’ve been stripped of their land and property rights allowed Mary Malemba Mkongo to connect her subjects to a human rights organization that’s now assisting the widows in their fight for justice. [Fund for Women Journalists Grantee]

decorative orange burst

Supriya Vohra’s report in Mongabay about a Goa mining village depleted of water by iron ore mining led the Goa department of public works to fast-track a water pipeline to the village. [Fund for Women Journalists Grantee]

decorative orange burst

Isabella Cota and Stephania Corpi’s investigation for El País into how the American anti-abortion movement has infiltrated Latin America sparked tangible change. Governments in Mexico and Costa Rica are now investigating local centers affiliated with US-based Heartbeat International that were misleading pregnant women and making false promises of adoption. The journalists were hacked and targeted by a smear campaign, but view these as proof of impact rather than negative fallout. [Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice in the Americas grantees]

decorative orange burst

Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow Ada Petriczko wrote columns in the Boston Globe about the refugee crisis in Eastern Europe and comparing the abortion bans in Texas and Poland. For the Globe’s Ideas section, she interviewed Rappler’s Maria Ressa, winner of a 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, about the Prize’s advocacy for press freedom.  

decorative orange burst

Our Gender Justice Reporting Initiative is improving gender equity coverage in South Africa and Uganda

Groundbreaking curriculum developed by veteran media leaders Paula Fray and Barbara Among


From relentless efforts to extract journalists from Afghanistan to speaking at journalism conferences to shooting documentaries in their spare time, our staff show their dedication to our mission daily. Perks like flexible workplace policies, quarterly staff-run Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conversations, and professionally facilitated trauma education and support contributed to staff members’ well-being.

The NFT, “Merchants of the Metaverse,” was a transformation of the magazine’s April cover.

New funders like the Emerson Collective joined us in 2021, while trusted partners increased their gracious support. In one sign of the times, Forbes Magazine, which collaborates with the IWMF and the Committee to Protect Journalists in publishing a monthly list of the ten most urgent cases of journalists under threat, donated proceeds from its first-ever Non-Fungible Token to our two organizations.

Our Voices, Heard

2021 was a banner year for IWMF in the news. We penned op-eds for Nieman Reports, Poynter and Ms. Magazine, received over 3700 media mentions, continued our Press Freedom Speaker Series and gained 10,000 social media followers from our Afghan response effort alone. 

decorative orange burst

We advocated for women and nonbinary journalists who faced threats via statements . . .

. . . and calls to action. When journalists’ Twitter profiles were taken down due to failures of Twitter’s private information policy, the IWMF joined other NGOs in an open letter to CEO Parag Agrawal.

decorative orange burst
All told, the IWMF’s share of voice
increased by over 76 percent,
just this year.

#CheckYourBylines Partners

decorative orange burst


The Courage in Journalism Awards

The 2021 Courage in Journalism Awards, hosted by Christiane Amanpour and broadcast by Washington Post Live, saw the debut of a new award – The Wallis Annenberg Justice for Women Journalists Award – dedicated to two winners, imprisoned Belarusian journalists Katsiaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova. In presenting the award, Wallis Annenberg, president and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation, pledged to fund the IWMF’s work through 2025. 

The Khabar Lahariya team trained themselves to be the voices of rural India

Vanessa Charlot uses photography to reframe the Black experience

Paola Ugaz exposed sexual abuse in a Catholic-adjacent organization in Peru

Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova imprisoned for covering protests in Belarus

Sisi Wei: Winner of Gwen Ifill Award
founder of DEI Coalition & Journalists of Color Slack community
co-executive director of Open News

The Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award

The Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award was created to honor the life and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning AP photographer and IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winner Anja Niedringhaus (1965-2014). The award recognizes the importance of visual journalistic work that inspires us to take action and compels us to better understand the world.

Fatima Shbair: Winner (our youngest ever!)
Covered Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one of 3 women photojournalists in Gaza

Adriana Zehbrauskas: Honoree

Kiana Hayeri: Honoree
Iran & Canada

Our recognition work goes further; we routinely submit our fellows and grantees’ work for industry awards. In 2021, 9 projects were shortlisted for industry honors and an additional 10 projects won awards, including:

Winners were grantees and fellows of the IWMF’s Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists and Adelante Reporting Initiative.

Board of Directors

Suzanne Malveaux, national correspondent at CNN, and Stephanie Kauffman, president and chief operating officer at the Melanoma Research Alliance, assumed co-leadership positions for the IWMF’s board in 2021. Linda Douglass became our vice chair and we welcomed Kristine Coratti Kelly, chief communications officer at The Washington Post and general manager of The Washington Post Live, as our newest board member.

In November, we mourned the passing of Joseph Cochrane, lead editor for Indonesia reporting for the IWMF’s Round Earth Media program.