Blog Posts

  • Women leading the music, agriculture, and military industries in Mali

    I've just returned from three weeks in Mali, reporting on women who are leading their communities, bringing together Malians who would otherwise be divided.   There were few others journalists in Mali when I arrived; the country had long faded from the headlines. On the edge of Ramadan, the weather topped out at 105*F daily. Most residents in the dusty capital of Bamako hid in shops, salons, and in colorful alleyways 'til the midday sun had passed, lounging away to the tunes of Amadou and Mariam, Ali Farka Toure, and Omou Sangare.         It rained occasionally, but not as often or early as it should. Residents complained, and crops along the road outside the capital looked listless, save for the bright orange mangoes sold on every corner. Women rode motorcycles, seemingly outnumbering the men, an odd sight for a...

  • How to lose your laptop but hopefully not your mind in a remote town very far away from home

    When the thing that I had feared the most happened, it came without warning. I was in Mrauk U, the center of an ancient kingdom in western Myanmar that at its peak 500 years ago attracted travelers from as far as Portugal and Japan. I was in town for a total of two days and two nights to explore the history of the place and its potential to help calm ethnic tensions that have splintered Myanmar’s Rakhine state. For the most part, I had gotten the story. I spent the day on the back of a motorbike bouncing from temple to temple as my tour guide/translator explained the ancient history and the sputtering attempt at growing the tourist economy. I interviewed the head of the local museum and chatted with the owner of a small cafe. Things were working out. Back at the...

  • Notes from a thousands-strong anti-LGBT protest

    It was hard not to be intimidated seeing them approach. I knew from my research that Georgia had massive anti-LGBT or “family values” protests every year, but it was different seeing one in person. They streamed down Tbilisi's main avenue by the thousands. When they first approached it looked like an endless sea of Georgian flags. Many were in traditional dress. There were a lot of families, a lot of children. It was hard to watch them walking down the avenue, smiling in the sun, and knowing that each and every one of them was there because they believed that "gay propaganda" was real and a threat to their families.  The march went on for hours, slowly winding its way through the city and up a hill that led to one of Tbilisi's main churches. It...

  • Curiosity runs both ways for solo female traveler in India

    This post originally appeared on the Chicago Tribune website on April 11, 2017. The blue-tinted dwellings looked like they continued on for miles. From high above the ancient Indian city of Jodhpur, it was easy to see how it became known as the "Blue City." I caught a view of these sky-blue homes while visiting the 15th century Mehrangarh Fort, which includes a palace, temples and garden at the end of a winding road looking down on the city. Though this was my first visit to India, my perspective on a month-long trip there was not entirely that of an ordinary tourist. I was traveling from one side of the country to the other, researching issues facing women and girls. Jodhpur, in Rajasthan State, was on my itinerary because it is an area with high rates of female illiteracy and child marriage, and a preference for...

  • Migration and Women’s Rights in Nepal

    Little girls’ report cards. This, it seemed, was what people really wanted to discuss. My colleague Pragati and I had flown from Kathmandu to the eastern border of Nepal to speak with people about migration. We went to Jhapa, a district with the second-highest rate of labor migration in the country. And then we went to Dhanusha, which had the highest rate. Tens of thousands of people have been leaving these areas each year to go work in the gulf. And, sure, families talked to us about that. But inevitably the conversation would veer toward report cards. “She’s number one in her class.” “She’s number two.” “We tell her: she doesn’t have to do any chores, her job is to study.” “She’s going to be a doctor.” ...

  • Covering the World in the Trump Era

    For American foreign correspondents, it’s become a familiar refrain: It’s difficult to get stories placed in the Trump era. Right now, Washington, DC, might just be the most exciting correspondent’s post in the world. It used to be that American readers who wanted colorful tales of deep-seated ideological clashes, winner-takes- all politics, and large-scale ineptness would be forced to turn to the international pages. But now that American democracy is at a major inflection point (or, less optimistically, has just passed a major inflection point), all the drama that a reader would once have had to find in chaotic democracies like Nigeria, Indonesia, or Israel can now be found right at home. And when there is chaos in the United States – the world’s largest economy and primary backer of the global liberal order – it matters...

  • Rio at a Crossroads

    “You don’t like the beach much, do you?” the doorman mused as I walked into my apartment building in Copacabana, drenched in sweat after a day out in the field. I nodded in solemn admission that the view while zipping around favelas on the back of moto-taxis wasn’t exactly the picturesque coastline most visitors came to see. I’d spent the past week interviewing residents whose lives had been upended to accommodate developments for the Rio Olympics, and the devastating results of the Games six months later. Many of the projects now stood desolate and useless, as is often the case in host cities after the athletes and media have come and gone. However in Rio, where there had been high hopes the international sporting event would provide an opportunity to improve infrastructure and help address its staggering...

  • Notes from the Field: Karachi: Week One

    Saba Imtiaz is a 2017 IRP fellow reporting from Pakistan on women’s rights and the intersection of religion and culture in Islamic societies. Firstly, I lucked out with scheduling my trip! The weather is quite lovely (take note, future IRP fellows to Pakistan!), and it's been great to get to work while not feeling like I'm about to pass out from the heat. I've spent the first week doing initial groundwork for the stories I'm looking to do. I'm here to report on women's rights and LGBTI issues, and I'm focusing on the intersection of religion and culture with women's rights. It's a subject I've been deeply interested in for years, but there was never the time or resources to immerse myself in the reporting. Thanks to IRP, I finally have the chance to...

  • Notes from the Field: Conversations and Context in Far-Flung Communities

    Zack Colman, the deputy energy and environment editor at the Christian Science Monitor, traveled to Marrakech in November 2016 as an IRP fellow reporting from the COP22 climate change conference. Here, he reflects on the value of leaving the conference halls and official statements behind for a few days to talk with farmers who had never heard the term “climate change” but had observed decades of its visible effects on their land.   Normally, I wouldn't categorize sleeping on a thin mattress in sub-freezing temperatures with no heat only to wake up with mysterious bug bites on my pelvis as a positive. But my trip to the High Atlas Mountains as part of the International Reporting Project's fellowship in Morocco was an exception. The accommodations were a necessary condition for getting to the country’s real stories. Simply put, the best...

  • Insights from Marrakech:  A Journalist Reflects on How to Cover Climate Change

    Emma Bryce is a London-based freelancer who traveled to Morocco with the International Reporting Project in 2016. Here, she reflects on the unexpected insights to be gleaned from reporting alongside a group of her peers.   I’m a freelance journalist, and I find that one quirk of this largely solitary profession is that you must rely on an internal yardstick to tell you how you’re doing and how to improve your work. This aspect of my career has been empowering, and has undoubtedly built my confidence. But on the other hand, the solitary nature of the work also breeds uncertainty and insecurity about your abilities, which can make it easier to lose sight of your strengths and weaknesses. Recently, I had a chance to step out of that solitary reality as one of five IRP fellows on a reporting trip to Marrakech....

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