Global Press Institute’s Gertrude Pswarayi Wins 2011 Kurt Schork Award

By: Press Release | Global Press Institute

Bay Area, CA – Global Press Institute is pleased to announce that Gertrude Pswarayi, a GPI reporter in our Zimbabwe News Desk, won this year’s 2011 Kurt Schork Award in the local reporter category for her piece “Political Rape Survivors Come Forward in Advance of 2011 Election,” an article published last December about women who were raped and exploited in Zimbabwe, a country with “zero tolerance for the journalism of revelation,” the judges noted.

Journalists from around the world submitted entries for the 2011 Kurt Schork Memorial Awards, the world’s only journalism prize that specifically honors foreign news by reporters living and working in the developing world and countries in transition.

Pswarayi lives in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where she is a senior reporter for the Global Press Institute, GPI, an international nonprofit organization that uses journalism as a development tool to educate, employ and empower women, who produce high-quality local news coverage that elevates global awareness and catalyzes social change.

GPI submitted three of Pswarayi’s 2010 articles, including an article about the denial of basic rights to Zimbabwean sex workers and another on the damaging impact of corruption on her country’s education system, but it was a powerful piece about political rape survivors coming forward to tell their stories ahead of the next elections, published by GPI in December last year, that captured the judges’ attention.

“We applaud her bravery and daring in telling the disturbing stories of raped and exploited women in Zimbabwe, a country with zero tolerance for the journalism of revelation,” wrote the judges. “Just when you feel that you can neither read, nor watch/listen to anything more about Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, you must come to terms with what Gertrude has told us.”

Gertrude, who has been a GPI reporter since 2009 and earned the title of senior reporter in 2010, says she has long been committed to telling the difficult stories from her home.

“Between 2003 and 2005, more than five privately owned newspapers were shut down and three community radios were banned as the government went berserk in attempts to strangle the independent voice,” she said. “This scenario has frightened a number of women into abandoning the media industry. I am of the few women who remain committed to the perilous industry in the country.”

In her role as co-founder and director of the Creative Centre for Communication and Development and a Senior Reporter for the Global Press Institute, Pswarayi says she is proud to leverage the position of women in Zimbabwe, using new information and communication technologies to raise women’s voices on critical issues.

Pswarayi was hired by GPI in 2009 after completing a program called Voices of our Future, VOF, an online training program in new media, citizen journalism, and empowerment created by World Pulse. It was there that Pswarayi met GPI founder and executive director Cristi Hegranes, who is the training partner for VOF.

“Gertrude is a rare soul. She is dedicated to the principled practice of journalism and executes that principle with a brave heart and inspiring talent for story. GPI is thrilled about her honor. In turn, we salute the judges for recognizing such a courageous piece of reporting on a topic that is difficult to digest,” said Hegranes.

“Gertrude showed us that together we are stronger; and that when women join together to raise the volume on the issues that affect their lives, world leaders can no longer ignore their voices,” said Jensine Larsen, founder of World Pulse.

Of the eight candidates shortlisted for the local honor, two were GPI reporters. The other was GPI senior reporter Tara Bhattarai from Nepal. About her work, the judges noted, “She shines a much needed light on the dark and hidden world of degrading and dehumanizing practices… [Her stories] are told with powerful, compelling personal examples interwoven with essential historical context about culture and behaviour. The writing is spare and unobtrusive. You never forget that these stories are about the victims, not the reporter.”

Both Pswarayi and GPI founder Hegranes will attend the awards ceremony in London on November 17, hosted by Thomson Reuters Foundation at Canary Wharf.

About the Kurt Schork Award
The Kurt Schork Memorial Fund was created in honor of Kurt Schork, an American journalist who was killed in a military ambush while on assignment for Reuters on May 24, 2000 in Sierra Leone. The Schork family and friends of Kurt Schork, with start-up support from Reuters, established the Fund as a 501(c)(3) organization in March 2001.

It was the work of freelancers and local journalists that Schork valued above all. As a result, his friends, colleagues from Reuters and family decided the best way to honor his legacy was to acknowledge those journalists with whom he had a particular bond. The Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism were created to honor fearless freelance news reporting, and those journalists who cannot leave their country when the story becomes secondary to survival.

Two annual prizes of $5,000 each are awarded, one to a freelance journalist covering foreign news, and the second to a local journalist in the developing world or countries in transition. Each entrant can provide up to three articles for consideration and the winner of each category receives a US $5,000 monetary award, presented at a ceremony in London. This year’s ceremony will be held on November 17, hosted by Thomson Reuters Foundation at Canary Wharf.

About the Global Press Institute

GPI is building a network of professional women journalists throughout the developing world who earn a fair wage for reporting on their local communities. Their unique coverage of issues overlooked by mainstream media contributes directly to the development and empowerment of their communities, brings greater transparency to their countries, and changes the way the world views their people and cultures.

GPI uses journalism as a development tool to empower women. The heart of GPI is a unique training-to-employment model that teaches traditional reporting skills, digital literacy and advanced writing skills to women around the world. Each woman who completes the training program receives an offer of employment and goes on to work within GPI’s sophisticated global network of editors, story coaches, mentors and fact checkers. The combination of skills-based education and long-term employment in a dignified profession empowers the women reporters and increases their quality of life and provides the means by which they can elevate living standards for themselves and their families.

GPI then syndicates its original news content to partner outlets around the globe with the aim of increasing local and global access to the important stories covered by GPI reporters. As of April 2011, more than 5 million people in 160 countries had access to GPI news coverage each month.

Founded in March 2006 by Hegranes, GPI held its first training program that September in Chiapas, Mexico. After completing the original, ethics-based training program, the first class of GPI reporters uncovered important stories about AIDS, clandestine abortion, poverty and community development. Since 2006, GPI has trained and employed reporters in 25 countries throughout the world who now publish daily on the GPI Newswire.

Hegranes, the founder and executive director, has received the Unsung Hero Honor from the Jefferson Awards, the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism, the Clarion Award for Investigative Journalism and a Lifestyle Journalism Prize, among others.

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