Over the past two years, my IWMF colleagues and I have led more than half a dozen reporting trips for women journalists, and in the process I’ve visited far flung destinations I never imagined having the opportunity to go. From Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria to Virunga National Park in eastern DRC, I’ve seen amazing places and shared some incredible – and at times harrowing – experiences alongside our intrepid reporting fellows. While it can be challenging to navigate through unfamiliar terrain with a team of journos who have a multitude of stories to report in a short timeframe, it’s been a real privilege doing this work. Sometimes I stop and think, “Oh my god, this is actually my JOB. How did I end up doing something so awesome?”
Our trip to Rwanda reinforces my belief in the importance of the IWMF’s Great Lakes Reporting Initiative. Our goals are to provide one-of-a-kind professional development/networking/peer learning experiences for women news media professionals around the world, and to help them discover new narratives from underreported places. We’re accomplishing more than we could have hoped for on both fronts.
I love watching our reporting fellows support each other through the reporting process. When one journalist’s story plan starts to fall apart, another member of the team helps her brainstorm alternate angles. During group interviews, our fellows collaborate instead of competing. They constantly help each other out, whether that means sharing Dramamine with a colleague car sick from the serpentine roads or a photojournalist teaming up to provide images to accompany a colleague’s radio piece. I know from keeping in touch with our alums that these relationships continue long after the reporting trip ends. Our fellows are opening doors for each other and creating a powerful network that will only grow stronger as they advance in their journalism careers.
And the stories that come out of these trips blow the lid off the usual media narrative from this region. I can’t wait to see what our Rwanda fellows produce after a week spent crisscrossing the country in search of fresh reporting angles on rural and economic development issues. Stay tuned for their outstanding reporting to come!
-Nadine Hoffman, IWMF Deputy Director