As ground zero in the multinational effort to combat AIDS, genocide and starvation, Africa has been seared into Western consciousness as a dying continent.
This perception, fostered by well-intentioned but sometimes misleading nonprofits, doesn't accurately portray the reality. Even foreign correspondents — for all their efforts to illuminate the complex social, political and cultural currents that run through these nations — rarely do the continent complete justice in their reporting.
One smaller, but rapidly expanding organization aims to paint a more nuanced picture in the most authentic way they can — by educating and equipping local women to develop their own voices in responsible journalism endeavors.
The Global Press Institute, founded in 2006 by American journalist Cristi Hegranes, already has established newsrooms in Nepal and Mexico, cultivated reporters in more than 22 developing countries and will soon open a training site and women's media center in Kenya.
"It's not just sick and hungry people running around in Africa," explained Hegranes, who believes that well-trained native reporters will paint a more realistic portrait of the craft, culture and social entrepreneurship in the emerging continent. "[The goal] is to really change the tone of a lot of the reporting that comes out."
The Media Center in Nairobi, Kenya, scheduled to open on Aug. 1, is set to become the first income-generating branch of the GPI, with its journalists contributing articles to local and international print, radio and Internet organizations. If the center becomes self-sufficient, any additional revenue will be used to fund new global training sites to educate potential journalists and improve the lives of women in other developing countries.
Hegranes described the "dualistic" state of Kenya as an ideal launch-pad for the Media Center. "Nairobi is an incredibly developed, world-class city, but yet at the same time, the people of Kenya still live in such poor conditions." In its first year organizers expect the center to produce active journalists, provide basic adult literacy and computer skills to women and give more than 5,000 members of the community access to information through an Internet café.
To learn more about the endeavors of the Global Press Institute, and the epiphany in Nepal that led to its foundation, check out Miller-McCune's 2008 Wonking Class Hero profile of Hegranes.
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