Director of Bhekisisa, The Mail & Guardian Centre for Health Journalism, Mia Malan took home the top prize in the features category at the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards Saturday night.
The annual competition drew a record-breaking 1637 entries from 38 countries across the continent, according to a press release earlier this year issued by organisers.
Malan won for her long-form narrative piece investigating child rape in a community north of Johannesburg, entitled “Diepsloot: Where men think it’s their right to rape.”
“I was overwhelmed by how widespread child rape was in Diepsloot. In almost every street that I visited, there were two or three children who had been raped, but there was little support available for families that had been affected.”
Understanding the prevalence of rape in Diepsloot
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The M&G's Mia Malan spent a week in Diepsloot and spoke to rape victims, parents and councillors to understand the high rate of rape in the township.
Malan’s story led to an outpouring of reader support for a rape counseling organisation, Green Door, which was featured in the story. In addition to numerous donations, Green Door also accessed free legal and administrative help to register as a non-profit (it is in the process of doing so) and expand its services.
Two months after the publication of the article, a United Nations special rapporteur visited Diepsloot to include case studies in a report on the causes of violence against women and children in South Africa.
More than a year later, the nuanced narrative about life in the community – and the intersection of violence, family dynamics and alcohol abuse – continues to be one of Bhekisisa’s best read stories.
In a press release, MultiChoice Africa CEO Tim Jacobs said the competition continues to unearth some of Africa’s finest storytellers:
“The finalists are to be applauded for their courage in covering some of the stories, many of which were in difficult circumstances. Congratulations to all the finalists.”
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Bhekisisa means "to scrutinise" in Zulu
In South Africa, Zulu patients who would like to be thoroughly assessed by a doctor, would ask the physician to "bhekisisa" them.