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Date: Sun, 11 Apr 1999 16:34:49 -0700 (PDT)
From: Art McGee <amcgee@igc.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.SUN.3.91.990411032223.2547B-100000@igc.apc.org>
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Subject: [BRC-NEWS] African Journalist of the Year: Pamela Mulumby
To: brc-news@igc.org


African Journalist of the Year: Pamela Mulumby

By George Nyabuga, 9 April 1999

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Pamela Mulumby of the East African Standard newspaper, published in Kenya, has won the 1999 African Journalist of the Year award.

Mulumby, 24, won out over 14 journalists from across the continent to win the coveted prize during a ceremony held here on March 26.

"My win goes to the women of Africa. This shows that women in Africa can win in this male-dominated profession. It is only through hard work that women can excel in this profession," Mulumby said.

She said her news focus had been on economic development and the "daily frustrations many Nairobi slum dwellers" have to go through as they struggle to survive in harsh economic conditions that characterize Kenya today. Mulumby won for a series of articles about life in the slums and squatter camps in Nairobi and in nearby rural villages.

The competition was organized by the African Journalist Foundation and sponsored by that foundation, The Freedom Forum and the M-Net cable channel. Mulumby was awarded $5,000.

James Macharia, a 1998 Freedom Forum Journalist in Residence, was the winner in the business category; he received an Apple Computer Powerbook G3 plus $1,000.

When Mulumby first showed an interest in journalism, her family tried to dissuade her, believing it a profession in which there is nothing to show for the effort. Kenya was a country with little press freedom and they felt she should be in a profession that could effect change in her country.

Her mother still worries when she leaves home on assignments. "She always asks me to take care of myself whenever I am out. She is so protective and worried that I might be hurt. It's difficult for her but she is getting used to it now," Mulumby said.

When she first entered the newsroom at the East African Standard, an upscale tabloid and Kenya's oldest newspaper, her colleagues, especially the men, dismissed her as a non-starter. They said she was too young to go anywhere, too green in the profession.

She was not discouraged.

Mulumby, who is still in college, started by doing fashion and design stories. Few of them were published. But instead of giving up as do many other young people, she wrote more and more, and eventually her stories were published. In time the feature editor was willing to give her more serious assignments. A year later, she is the winner of an annual pan-African journalism competition.

"I knew what I was getting into and I let nothing stand in my way and perhaps this (award) will prove to those who wanted me in another profession that I am on track to achieve my life's ambition."

At 24, she is not only the youngest winner but the first woman to win. "I don't know what I am going to do with this money. But I will decide when the right time comes," she said.

Mulumby says her editors often worry that she does not have what it takes to deal with harsh conditions under which the poor live in her city, which she covers. She says, however, that remaining firm is what gets her the story.

Mulumby, who will be graduated from Daystar University in Nairobi next month, said her editor felt that as a woman she could not go into a slum to do a story. But she said, "I was adamant and I think this has paid off."

When she entered Daystar University four years ago to work for an arts degree in communication and media with a journalism major, there was not much hope for young people in the country's underdeveloped media. There are only four daily newspapers, some of which are struggling, and a handful of weeklies and magazines.

Mulumby took criticisms seriously and learned to cope with the male chauvinism that dominated the newsroom. She joined the East African Standard when it had few female journalists and those who were there held junior positions. The scene has changed, there now are a few women editors.

And what's next for Pamela Mulumby?

"Now I just want to read, read and read and write and write and write. I would like to get a Ph.D., so I am not finished with my education. I believe I can only become better if I go back to school to read some more. This is something I have always wanted to do and perhaps this is the right time."

George Nyabuga is a Kenyan journalist working in Johannesburg at The Sunday Independent as a Freedom Forum visiting journalist. He was a Freedom Forum Journalist in Residence in the U.S. in 1997.

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