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Cultivating Leadership, Honoring Courage, Pioneering Change

A DC non-profit pushes the status of women in the media

by Marlena Chertock

This summer I’m interning with the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) in Washington, DC.

The IWMF was founded in 1990 in order to honor women in the media and support the freedom of the press.  An international conference in Washington, D.C., News in the Nineties, prompted the creation of the IWMF.  Prominent women journalists from 50 countries attended the conference and felt it was necessary to create an organization that would enable communication for women journalists around the world.  Conferences such as the one in 1990 are held every few years to mark anniversaries of the foundation and to bring women journalists together to reflect on and examine the impact of women in the news media.

The IWMF’s mission is to strengthen the role of women in the news media worldwide.  Four strategies are utilized by the foundation in order to achieve this mission: building a strong network, cultivating effective leaders by offering training and classes, pioneering change, and honoring courage.

The IWMF has built a strong network of women and men in the news media through its website, newsletters, pamphlets, conferences, and awards.  The foundation conducts research on women journalists around the world.  This research is compiled on the IWMF website.  Not only does the research help the staff decide which journalists should be honored, but it also serves as a way to check if journalists are in danger and need assistance.  The IWMF’s network has created an international dialogue among women in the media.

Djire Doussou of L’Essor at the 2010 Leadership Institute in Mali. The Leadership Institute was held for African women journalists. Photo from the IWMF website.Djire Doussou of L’Essor at the 2010 Leadership Institute in Mali. The Leadership Institute was held for African women journalists. Photo from the IWMF website.

Various training sessions and classes are offered worldwide by the IWMF.  There are leadership institutes that the IWMF offers for women journalists.  These institutes offer career advice, journalistic skills, networking opportunities, and information to help women move up the career ladder.  The IWMF also grants Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowships to full-time or part-time journalists reporting on human rights or social justice issues.  The fellowship offers selected journalists to work on a nine-month research program held at MIT’s Center for International Studies Massachusetts with access to work with the Boston Globe and New York Times, as well.

The IWMF prides itself on pioneering change.  The training that IWMF offers aides journalists who report on global issues.  Such reporting has the ability to improve lives.  For instance, the IWMF is leading a four-year initiative that is helping African journalists increase coverage of agriculture, rural development, and HIV/AIDS.  This initiative is called the Maisha Yetu project.

The IWMF also honors courageous women journalists from around the world.  The Courage in Journalism and Lifetime Achievement Awards are given out each year to several women journalists who have shown outstanding courage.  The Courage in Journalism Awards recognize heroic women journalists reporting on difficult issues or in dangerous situations.  The Lifetime Achievement Awards are given out to veteran women journalists who have “shattered glass ceilings, elevated the principles of journalistic practice, and (become) worthy role models for young women—and men—in newsrooms around the world,” according to the IWMF website.

This summer, I will be helping them with finding potential Courage in Journalism Award candidates.  I have been researching women journalists around the world that have put their lives in danger for their jobs, freedom, press freedom, human rights and message they feel necessary to spread.

Past Courage in Journalism Award winners can be seen here.

I am impressed by the quality of work the IWMF does.  As I continue on in my educational and journalistic career, I see more and more that I am drawn to work and writing that relates to issues of human rights and social justice.  The IWMF’s mission falls clearly under this category.  The staff is extremely passionate and dedicated to the mission and to ensuring human rights relating to journalism around the world, such as a free press.  Their work causes positive change and brings issues to light.

My supervisor, Samantha White, graduated from Elon University, where I attend now.  It is great to see an alumna in a position I can see myself in in the future.  Though I want to be more involved in writing and journalism at a newspaper or online, it encourages me to keep up my studies and activities and that dream will eventually be realized.

I will be writing about the work I’m doing for the IWMF and any writing they may have me do.  Keep checking back for updates!