Making the News

Seray Banugra is 27 years old from Free Town, Sierra Leone. She reports on the local elections.

"I contracted polio when I was one year. My parents got separated after my disability and I lived with my mother, who was selling donut cakes. So my mother had to get married to another man, my stepfather.

"In the society in which we live, people think of polio as a curse, an evil spirit. And they tend to look at you as an outcast, and you cannot do anything in society, you cannot help your family or live a meaningful life. Before, if you got polio, blindness or any form of disability, your parents ended up neglecting you and leaving you somewhere - you would end up being dead or living in the streets. They wouldn't care for you. Some of my friends were thrown in the bush by their parents, but they survived.

"I was lucky – I was accepted to a school, where I was handpicked to be trained as a journalist for the Radar project. But to be honest, I didn't have any interest in journalism before the project. I don’t read the newspaper, but I listen to the radio. I guess I did well in the training because I was called back for another two days of advanced training.

"It covered basic writing skills, how to do interviews, how to report in emergency situations like disease outbreaks, elections, disasters, and also on community stories. I learned how to be safe, to take precautions, and also how to use social media to report. We use our own phones to text news updates to a central organizer.

"We reported on this year’s general elections. It is the third election since the civil war, and the first to be covered live. We never had people reporting during Election Day, before. This time, we reported on incidents like ballot stuffing, a few cases of violence. Live reporting makes it more difficult for cheaters to cheat the vote.

"I didn’t have a job before. I find it very difficult to approach people to interview them and to get them to talk to you. But with time, I had to overcome that. Now, I have written two stories that have been published. The first one was published by UK newspaper the Guardian, and another was published by New Internationalist magazine.

"Not everyone will talk to me, will tell me how they feel or about how the voting experience was. And some people definitely won’t talk to me. Those are the ones to question. Keep trying to get people to talk to you."