Emsie Erastus

Emsie Erastus

Date: March 11, 2011
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I have been Gender Linked

I remember arriving at the Gender Links office on 15 January 2010. I was told that there will be other interns from two other countries, but it seemed that I was far ahead of them on arrival. It turned out that I arrived a week earlier than them. So I sat in the intern’s office alongside Kate, a human trafficking expert from the UK who was also new, but seemed to have been at GL for a long time, so it appeared.

Then my boss-to-be Jennifer Elle Lewis took me around the office and introduced me to everyone at GL. I think that was my first real experience with the GL people going from office to office, introduced to people whom at the time I thought were all South African nationals. I later came to discover that GL is an international organisation and almost every culture is represented at the gender house.

But before I can tell more of what I learnt at Gender Links, let me give a little background of were I came from. Back at home I was a journalist for a weekly newspaper. My stories involved working with community members, many of whom are women. These women are either abused or under-quoted in the media. I first heard of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development during the Namibian presidential election in 2009. That was when I realised that women were not moving to higher positions because of the way us media practitioners report on them in politics. The fact that society was ghettoising them based on gender did not seem right.

So my newspaper manager Willie Olivier and I took the initiative of questioning why the government signed the Protocol but were not adhering to it. We interviewed a couple of gender activists and that was the beginning of Emsie and gender. For the first time the Namibian Sun had a front page story all dedicated to empowering women, and mind you this paper only has two front page stories a week, so for a gender story to hit tops was a thumbs up.

Little did I know that that story would usher my way to Gender Links.

Our Head of Department at the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) Media Department, Emily Brown, saw the article. When she approached me to go and have my six month internship at Gender Links, she mentioned that article and I thought to myself “Wow, is this fate?”

And now on that fateful day of 15 January, I was standing in front of the people who had drawn up the Protocol that helped me see gender and politics in a different light. I was assigned to be a GMDC intern and worked in our department with Jennifer and Saeanna.

Working as an intern at GL I learnt discipline, learning to do the little work and bigger work was an unforgettable experience. I also managed to take advantage of GL’s library and grab all the gender books I would find. I spent most of my evenings reading GL “I” Stories and journals at the interns’ apartment.

One thing I will always remember was helping to organise the Gender In Media Education (GIME) Summit GL hosted with many university lecturers and HODs in the SADC region. Hearing different media educators making decisions on how they can mainstream gender made me feel like I was part of a new evolution that was evolving in this modern age. The evolution of gender and the media!

The learning experience was just too much that it will take too many pages to write it all down. Another highlight was working with Sarry Xoagus-Eises in Namibia, covering the informal traders protest at soccer city with Jennifer and Albert, and helping out at the Gender Justice and Local Government Summit. At the Summit, I saw different people from different countries in SADC who have all dedicated themselves to change the world’s history and create a new ‘herstory’. One that titles women on the basis of their achievement and true positions, one that gives a woman a voice to speak for herself, one where the meme and tate of the house are considered equals.

I have learnt a lot through GL and in 2010 I was awarded the best gender reporter award by the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) in Namibia. It was the first times that MISA Namibia journalist awards had a gender category and it so happened to go to a young journalist who was an intern at Gender Links in the same year. So is GL helping people through their work you might ask? Look at my story and you will get the answer.

Willie told me when I left The Sun for GL that I should not get too gender-inspired by Colleen. But too bad to say Willie I think you should have prayed harder because I have been Gender Linked.

Emsie Erastus was a Gender and Media Diversity Intern at Gender Links from January to June 2010.


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