Winning has a transformative impact, say Young Journalist winners

Posted by Sara Loane

An "eye-opening experience" which has given him the "courage and zeal" to pursue the stories that really matter is how one journalist described winning the Young Journalist Award

Maurice Oniang'o from Kenya joined fellow winners in sharing the transformative impact the accolade and subsequent mentoring by the foundation has had on their confidence and careers.

The Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award 2019 is open for entries until 16th AugustTo qualify, journalists must be 30 or under and reporting from a country with a Gross National Income per capita of $20,000 or less.

Judges of the award look for stories that are revelatory, prompt public debate and have led to, or have the potential to lead to, positive change in society. Three finalists will be flown to London in November to spend two nights in the city and attend the gala award night hosted by the UK Foreign Press Association (FPA).

Here is what our previous winners have to say about what their victory has meant to them.

Videos created by Cheolan Jeong

"It opened so many doors for me. A huge thank you to Thomson Foundation for empowering local journalists"

Yousra Elbagir, 2016 Young Journalist winner
“I see a lot of interesting things awaiting for me” – Alisa Kustikova, Russia

“It was a great honour for me to be the winner,” says Alisa Kustikova, the 2018 winner and the first Russian to win the prize. "It helps me to understand the next step I want to take. 

"I will always be interested in telling stories about people and the problems they are in. I want to tell complex stories that society is not ready to hear about. In the near future I see a lot of interesting things awaiting for me. 

“I would say to others, be sure to try your hand. This is the chance for you and the chance for the journalistic community of the country that you represent to demonstrate their achievement and level.”


“Winning was a watershed moment” – Judy Kosgei, Kenya

"The award reaffirmed that little voice in my head that said changing lives begins with me," says Kenya's Judy Kosgei, who was the first winner of the award back in 2013 and whose winning work resulted in a change in the education law in Kenya.

“Winning was a watershed moment as it not only gave me the chance to amplify the voices of the marginalised, but it also connected me to key networks and personalities who have since shaped my worldview.

My passion then, as it is now, is to advocate for the rights of the marginalised. It is in receiving the Young Journalist Award that I have now been given the skills and platforms to effectively get them to be heard. 

“I would say to any journalist and aspiring journalist out there, rewrite the narrative and influence change. No media platform is too small to stir change, no voice too low, no picture too hazy and no ink too faint. 

“There is no greater opportunity than this.”


“It has helped me excel as a journalist” – Mariana Motrunych, Ukraine

“It can be a dangerous and difficult job, but journalists have a lot of tools to change the world and improve the lives of ordinary people,” says 2017 winner, Ukrainian investigative reporter, Mariana Motrunych.

“It was a really great honour to be the winner of the Young Journalist Award. It has helped me excel as a journalist and has made me understand that my material and reporting is necessary. It’s given me more confidence.

“I strongly recommend that others apply for this award. It can bring new opportunities for you, new job offers, new projects, and of course, an interesting trip to London!”


“For me, it was just as much about the support after winning” – Waad Al Kateab, Syria

“The award has given me a lot of confidence and hope that we, as new voices around the world, are heard,” says Syrian filmmaker and producer for Britain's Channel 4 News, Waad Al Kateab. Waad received special recognition in 2017 as part of the Young Journalist Award. 

“I was very honoured to receive this award. But it’s not just about the award, but the good relationship with and the support received from Thomson Foundation after receiving the award.

“The inspiration that journalists and their work can give to others can help to change the world. I would tell people to apply for this award. It gives you a push and enables you to have relationships with people who can give you a lot of support. It’s also great to just have people recognise our voices and our work."


 “The whole experience has been an eye-opener” – Maurice Oniang’o, Kenya

“The Young Journalist Award has enabled me to get onto platforms that I would never, ever have even imagined getting onto before I won the award,” enthuses Maurice Oniang’o from Kenya who was the worthy winner of the award in 2014.

“It has opened so many doors for me as a journalist. The whole experience has been an eye-opener in terms of the kind of journalist I want to be and the kind of content I want to give my audience.

“The award gave me the courage and zeal to pursue stories that are informative and create impact in society. It’s encouragement that your effort to bring change in society has received recognition.

“For anyone thinking of applying, I would say, please, do make your submission. This award will take you places that you never imagined you will go.”


“The award came with enormous exposure” – Caroline Ariba, Uganda

“A lot has changed since winning,” says 2015 winner, Ugandan journalist, Caroline Ariba, who won the award at the FPA Awards ceremony held in November in 2015. 

“The award came with enormous exposure. Recognition at this level means everything and the experience has opened doors. I once walked into a meeting with ambassadors and they all stood up. I wasn’t just Caroline Ariba anymore, but an award-winning and respected journalist. The win has given my by-line strength.

“It’s tough to be a journalist so when you have international applause like this, it encourages you, it makes you feel like it’s worth it.”

“We tell stories about the world, so who better than journalists to change the world. Anyone that is looking to apply for this award and is probably doubting themselves, I’d say, send in your stories. Send in your best work. It’s never the same after you win the award. Doors fly wide open for you.”


“It opened so many doors for me” – Yousra Elbagir, Sudan

“I'll never forget the moment I stepped onto the stage to accept the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award,” says 2016 winner, Yousra Elbagir, who is now a foreign news reporter for Channel 4 News. 

“To stand before journalists, whose work I had followed religiously, and speak on the pigeonholing of local journalists as "fixers" and "middle men”, felt like a dream.

“It really meant a lot to me and to the people in my country to have someone represent them who wasn't just a foreign journalist coming in and reporting on stories in Sudan. 

“I recommend that journalists under 30 apply for this incredible opportunity. It opened so many doors for me. A huge thank you to Thomson Foundation for empowering local journalists for over 50 years.”


Young Journalist Award: How to enter

We're inviting entries for the prestigious Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award 2019.

This is the seventh year of the award, in partnership with the UK Foreign Press Association, dedicated to finding and inspiring ambitious young journalists from across the globe. 

Closing date: 16th August, 2019

To find out more, and for details on how to enter, visit our Competitions page or go directly to the entry form#TFYoungJournalist



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Sara Loane

Sara Loane

Communications Manager

About: Sara is responsible for the creation and delivery of engaging and effective messages, campaigns, publications and print and digital design concepts that support and promote the foundation.

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