Thomson Foundation award-winning documentary film maker Maurice Oniang’o highlights traditional practices and beliefs in Africa which, he argues, are resulting in some girls voluntarily electing to undergo body mutilation and entering early marriage in his latest work.
Maurice won the Young Journalist award in 2014 with a portfolio of stories which included a film on child soldiers who guard their village from Ethiopian raiders. The following year, he won Best TV Reporter in the environment category from Media Council of Kenya for a documentary on food waste and its impact on climate change.
In a recent documentary he reports on the indigenous Ogiek community in Njoro, Nakuru County, Kenya where girls are voluntarily undergoing the banned practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the deliberate mutilation of the female genitalia.
“The point is to highlight that as much as we vilify parents and the older generation for forcing girls to undergo FGM, there is a need to empower girls with more information since they themselves now choose to undergo the cut,” says Maurice.
His documentary examines the peer pressure and traditional beliefs about becoming a grown women and entering marriage. It focuses on three teenagers aged 13 and 14 who have put themselves forward for FGM and two other girls who are refusing to undergo the banned practice and enter early marriage and instead want to continue with their education.
“I feel passionately about girl child empowerment which is why I chose to cover the subject of FGM,” he says. “I want to help change the lives and well-being of millions of girls who might be put at risk.
The award experience has been an eye-opener in terms of the kind of journalist I want to be.
In addition to tackling the FGM issue, Maurice is hoping he can use his film making to help address the problem of domestic violence against women in African countries, which he believes is one of the primary obstacles to women’s empowerment.
His documentary gives a voice to the men who are standing up to entrenched gender violence and are calling for increased action and an alternative masculinity.
“The Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award gave me the courage and zeal to pursue stories such as these that are informative and create impact in society,” he says. “It’s also encouragement that your effort to bring change in society has received recognition."
Maurice is part of Journalists for Transparency a collective of young journalists around the world who report on issues around corruption and governance.
His latest work for the organisation focuses on ivory poaching in East Africa and Rhino horn poaching in South Africa.
“The award experience has been an eye-opener,” says Maurice, “in terms of the kind of journalist I want to be and the kind of content I want to give my audience.”
Visit the Young Journalist section to learn more about the award and how to apply.
Watch our 2015 Thomson Foundation Young Journalist finalists as they attend the Foreign Press Association Awards gala night at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel in London.