To mark International Women's Day, we salute the seven female journalists featured in our latest review for their brave reporting, often in regions that are war-torn and volatile.
While bravery isn’t specific to one’s gender, the commitment to covering human rights violations, corruption and conflict, and the specific challenges and dangers these women face in the course of their work, should be acknowledged.
They are just a handful of the great female journalists that the foundation has had the honour of working with over the years, who produce outstanding journalism and bring back stories, findings and images that are helping to enrich the social, economic and emotional lives of the people in their countries.
A series of hard-hitting investigative reports won Alisa Kustikova the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award in 2018.
Often operating in extremely difficult circumstances, Alisa covered stories relevant to vulnerable citizens as well as exposing political violations. She is the first Russian to win the prize, which is part of the UK Foreign Press Association (FPA) Awards.
One of Alisa's stories highlighted the activities of a loan company, which tricked thousands of people. The story begins with the suicide of a father of four young children, unable to live with the shame of his family's eviction from their apartment due to his inability to pay back a loan. Another of her investigative reports covered the violations that took place during elections in St Petersburg.
Alisa's passion for uncovering corruption is evident from her winning entries. "With each new story I wanted to reach the roots of the problem more and more," she says. "There are a lot of cases of injustice in Russia. There are people in power – and businessmen connected with them – who can do anything they wish."
In 2017, young Syrian filmmaker, Waad Al Kateab, received special recognition from Thomson Foundation for her reports from Aleppo, which drew the attention of the world to the horrors of the Syrian city under siege.
The award was given because Waad's storytelling for the UK's Channel 4 News "provided a unique perspective" into the conflict, with a lot of her filming from the emergency room of the Aleppo hospital where her husband, a doctor, worked.
More than a year later, Waad, her husband, and their two young daughters are living in London, having been granted asylum. Now Waad's documentary 'For Sama' has been commissioned by Channel 4 and PBS Frontline. It tells the story of her 'journey through love, motherhood, war and survival'.
The film is Waad's attempt to explain to her daughter why they stayed behind in Aleppo while others left. "This film is also for the people we lost. A testament to their sacrifices," says Waad. "It's our story, our voices and I'm proud of it."
Honduran journalist, Wendy Funes, received special recognition at the Index Freedom of Expression Awards in 2018 for her hard-hitting investigative journalism.
A year earlier, she had received training from the foundation as part of the Media4Democracy programme funded by the European Union, which she says was invaluable to her work as an investigative reporter with her newspaper, Reporteros de Investigacion.
Index, which campaigns against censorship, describes Wendy as "... a courageous female voice, writing in a corrupt and violent society... where women are regularly subjected to severe domestic violence, and often killed."
The situation for Honduran media has worsened steadily over the past decade. It's not easy being a journalist in Honduras. "There are many crimes against journalists, and the perpetrators get away with it," says Wendy. "Seventy-five journalists were killed in Honduras in 2018."
Rania Haroun (pictured above, right) spent four years training with Thomson Foundation on the Sudan Media Capacity Building Project. She banded together with other journalists trained by the foundation to ensure coverage of Sudan’s deadly uprising was fair, accurate and verifiable.
And a former Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award winner, Yousra Elbagir (centre), was reporting on the story for Channel 4 News, as well as helping to verify user-generated video and photographic content.
Demonstrations flared in December over rising food prices and spiralling inflation, with protests later aimed at removing president Omar Al Bashir from office.
Both Rania and Yousra's work – in difficult conditions and bearing certain risks – helped to ensure coverage of a story which has been under-reported by international media, with many journalists targeted by the Sudanese government.
Entisar Omer (left), who successfully completed the foundation's Training of Trainers programme over five years, has also been passing on her skills to citizen journalists in Sudan, giving them the confidence to cover sensitive issues from child marriage and racism, to the crippling cost of fuel and the lack of jobs for young people. "Being a good trainer means preparing yourself to deal with all sorts of difficult situations," says Entisar.
Photographs revealing hidden stories from the Middle East were exhibited in Beirut, Lebanon in summer 2018 showcasing the work of the foundation's photojournalism trainees.
The images produced showed another side to the photojournalists' communities in Yemen, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon, with some photographers gaining access to previously undocumented groups.
One photographer, Eman Al Awami, who covers humanitarian situations and public life in conservative Yemen, found herself able to sit amongst a group of habitual female users of khat (an amphetamine-like stimulant), giving a rare glimpse of life away from the frontline.
The exclusive images addressed the social issues facing Arab women. With no luxury of parks and safe spaces amidst the sufferings of war and siege, Yemeni women have created a secret world of their own, away from the problems and worries of life and conflict.
"We don't just sit in rooms discussing policy. We are at the sharp end, where the journeys begin and end"
– David Quin, director of development, Thomson Foundation
"From traditional dance and the rituals of Ramadan, to secret groups of Yemeni women who smoke khat, the photographers have given us a glimpse of life away from the frontline"
– Glenn Edwards, photojournalism trainer
Journalists no longer have to wait for classroom learning opportunities to be able to develop their skills. In fact, more of them are now regularly going online to find out how to do things better. This is not just an opportunity but a gap that the Thomson Foundation believes it can fill.
"We teach people to think of storytelling beyond a single medium... we are now teaching ourselves to approach skills development beyond the single medium of the classroom"
– Hosam El Nagar, director of innovation and learning, Thomson Foundation
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