There are few jobs that can change you the way my work with IWPR changed me. When I started interning at the London office, over three years ago, I was not just inexperienced. I was also insecure about who I was and my abilities to be a good journalist, self-centred and oblivious to the real reasons for which journalism truly matters.
I have wanted to be a journalist, a foreign correspondent, since I was about 15 years old. I wanted the travel, the adventure, the exhilaration of uncovering, discovering, and living on the edge, perhaps. There was a thirst in me for this job. Some will call it a vocation, but it was more like a desperate need, a crave for transcendence through a noble cause. What the cause itself was did not really matter, it only needed being noble and justify my existence on some kind of level. It was about me.
When I was offered the position of radio producer in The Hague office, after my six months internship in London, I was ecstatic to get a first job in journalism at a time when the economy had just crashed and the media industry had been in a bad shape for some time already. I had been preparing for a struggle and I was handed an amazing job on a silver plate.
A year in The Hague, covering the International Criminal Court taught me a lot in terms of doing the job. I learnt how to conduct difficult interviews dealing with complicated legal issues, how to cover a trial, how to produced a radio programme and most importantly I learnt what it means to rigorously pursue a story. I could never be grateful enough to the amazing IWPR editorial team that has never overlooked an inconsistency, an approximation or an unchecked fact in my articles and thus taught me what journalism school never really did. I gained the confidence and the experience I needed.
Face à la Justice, the radio programme I was hired to produce, in collaboration with a Search for Common Ground journalist based in Kinshasa, was a show about justice and human right, initially focusing on international justice and broadcast all over DRC. But after a year of this partnership, we decided to restart from scratch, on our own, in North and South Kivu in order to focus on training women journalists through the fortnightly production of the show. In June 2010 I went to Goma to train 15 women in radio journalism and build a production team.
I met Passy, Constance, Marie, Sarah, Régine, Godelieve, Nicole, Espérance, Lucie, Rehema, Denise, Arlette, Euphrasie, Joséphine and Récente who were soon joined by Clarisse, Francine, Kamerli, Christine, Jacquie, Pierrette, Solange, Magguy, Consolée, Rose, Esther, Gloria et Alboni. Some left, most stayed, and the team we’ve formed has become more than just a team, it is a group of friends who look after each other.
The project has grown over the years too. I was lucky to be given the freedom to shape it largely the way I wanted. We added mobile phone video reporting to the radio and print production. I co-developed www.uhakinews.net and I taught the journalists how to manage it and use social media to promote their work. We transformed our office in Goma into a resource centre for women journalists.
I am proud of having led this project to what it is today. The website is a success and the radio program is a model in many local radio stations’ newsrooms. Many of our journalists have been promoted to reporter positions in their radio station. We highlighted issues that were under reported such as the plea of soldiers’ families, and started debate on issues such as whether women should be allowed to work without their husband’s permission. Though I won’t delude myself into thinking that it is all thanks to me, it is incredibly moving and rewarding to see how grateful the journalists are for all the support and the progresses they have made in their career as a result. Karmeli, who from the expat house where she was working as a cleaner I took to our office one day and signed her up for one of our trainings, is now one of the best journalists we’ve had. Passy, who was struggling between two freelance jobs, is now our star presenter and has taken over Face à la Justice production now that I am gone.
It has been an honour to work with these women, a privilege to be given the chance to nurture such deep relationships with a group of individuals who are not just good journalists, but also beautiful, brave and inspiring human beings. It is a cliché to say, but the truth is they taught me more than I taught them. They taught me humility, the importance of the community, what it means to care not just about a story, but also about the people who are part of the story. While I only taught them how to hold a recorder and write a script, they taught me the real value of journalism.
Taking the decision to move on was hard, and going freelance is daunting, but I am taking with me the greatest lesson of all: that the story will never be about me, and therefore there will be no failing. There will only be possibilities for change.