Marie-Annick Savripene – Mauritius

Marie-Annick Savripene – Mauritius

Date: June 30, 2015
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“You are trying to prohibit me from entering this conference room, but I am telling you that I will go,” insists a small woman with silver hair, facing a huge security guard. This exchange takes place at the gates of a huge conference room in Sandton, Johannesburg. What determination! This woman is Colleen Lowe Morna, executive director of Gender Links, journalist and activist. The meeting was a conference of Heads of Member States of SADC to examine progress towards the Protocol on Gender and Development in 2008.

I will never forget this moment, because for me, it boils down to perseverance, and the actions that we all take as part of Gender Links to break down doors, make ourselves heard, and win. While I do not have the same personality as Lowe Morna, I have learned a lot about how to approach obstacles, and how to have the strength to persevere.

I am the editor of the French News and Commentary Service of Gender Links. I have been part of the work of the organization since 2000, and in 2008, Gender Links made an offer of full-time employment as a copy editor and translator. I took an unpaid leave from the newspaper I had been working for since 1989, to take advantage of the opportunity. After a year, I realized that I couldn’t decide which of the two opportunities I liked more, so I tried to find a way of combining the two. I managed to get part time contracts at both places, allowing me to keep both passions alive.

It has not always been a smooth journey. There are many competing priorities, and sometimes, bringing my journalistic experience in means I don’t agree with the writing approach of people with an NGO background. It is a constant process of negotiation and learning, but always with pressures of deadlines! I have come a long way in my understanding of the issues around the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and its provisions. Plus, I have had a lot of personally development in terms of information technology; I’m still learning.

Gender Links has broadened my horizons in an extraordinary way. I have learned about the realities in other countries in our region, both for women, and for other journalists, for example, during a training of francophone SADC countries, or while attending the CSW. I have gained so much by specializing in women, and it has given be a lens to interpret other social issues. I now have a trained eye, to flush out gender stereotypes that are published by newspapers, and can particularly influence how women are portrayed in my media house.

One of the biggest changes in my is my newly developed ability to speak in public. Before, I would have been paralyzed in front of an audience. It was inexplicable. But after having participated, and then myself conducted trainings, I have become more and more comfortable speaking in front of big groups of people.

I owe a thank you to Loga Virahsawmy, from the bottom of my heart. She has been my mentor and my colleague. I have gained so much confidence by working with her. She has really helped me develop my potential. In Gender Links, I have come to understand gender for the first time in my life. THe organization is filled with resource people; doing the right thing, at the right time. The staff know how to simplify technical issues, and engage people with concepts in a way they will understand.

Through the work of Gender Links, the media in Mauritius are much more sensitive to gender. It is not rare for them to dedicate a full newspaper page to gender issues. There is a more nuanced view of economic issues, and gender is not “ghettoized” as something for women. Articles I publish, for example, are mainstream media discussions on any topic, that include a gendered perspective.

Change is slow, but we can see, for example, through comments from the public on things we publish, that our messages are reaching people, and social awareness is growing. Being in the mainstream has its advantages and disadvantages, but I believe if we are vigilant, our voices will be heard.


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