Almost without exception, the U.S,-based media covers Africa only during a crisis—genocidal ethnic conflicts, famine, AIDS. Thus, many would argue, those of us in the U.S., Western Europe, and even Africans who rely on international media for information about their continent could easily come to the conclusion that the entire continent is beyond hope and that assistance is ineffective.
Carnegie Corporation of New York had a different vision, based on its extensive knowledge and philanthropic investment in Africa’s educational infrastructure. Susan King, vice president of public affairs for the corporation, challenged Women’s eNews to find the uncovered story of committed leadership—women’s leadership—from Morocco to South Africa.
We were thrilled at the opportunity and committed to report, write and provide photos for eight stories covering women’s leadership on the continent—news that looked beyond the genocidal wars, the deepening poverty and the world’s highest rate of HIV infection.
When we began planning our work, our Africa team–the editors, board members and several free-lance reporters based in Africa–openly wondered how Women’s eNews was going to find that many women in leadership doing significant work on behalf of other women. Had we over-promised?
As our reporting plan began to take shape and our research to bear fruit, the team quickly realized we had far too many worthwhile stories and that producing eight would only be a beginning of changing the way Women’s eNews covered Africa.
Also, because of its significance and the amount of time required, the team decided we should send a staff member Alex Poolos to Rwanda to report and write the first of the series. The genocide of 1994 had dramatically changed the gender politics that nation to the point that women now comprised 49 percent of the parliament, the highest percentage in the world.
In Rwanda and across the continent, our reporters met and interviewed African who are rising to the challenge, not despairing, but building civil society, creating schools, nongovernmental organizations, community support and health projects, bartering for peace in ravaged nations, changing harmful religious customs and rituals, and demanding a seat at the table as nations attempt to develop viable institutions. An astonishing number of these individuals are women. We hope you will find their stories as compelling as we did.