Hire Calling: Training Grassroots Reporters

Here's the ninth in our series of women who are creating jobs for other women. Click here to vote by August 31, 2012, for the job genius whose work impresses you most. We'll give the winner $20,000

by the MORE Editors
cristi hegranes image
Photograph: Laurie Wilson

Cristi Hegranes
Founder and Executive Director, Global Press Institute (GPI)

The big idea
Since 2006 the nonprofit GPI has trained 133 women in 25 countries in journalism, hiring them to report for its online newswire (global​press​institute​.org) and 35 major syndication partners, including UPI and the BBC. “The reporters not only earn a living wage,” Hegranes says, “they give their marginalized communities an international voice.”

The backstory
Eight years ago, Hegranes, now 31, was in Nepal finishing her master’s thesis and reporting for U.S. newspapers. She learned Nepali but noticed that many foreign correspondents did not speak the language, and she worried that they missed crucial stories.

Her brainstorm
“Spending time with Pratima, the matriarch of a tiny village, I had a lightning-bolt moment,” Hegranes recalls. “Women like her had the trust of the community and access to sources and stories I would never have. If Pratima was given training and a credible, global platform, it would change her life and her community’s.”

The leap
Hegranes landed a job as a features writer at a San Francisco newspaper. But she couldn’t shake the notion of training indigenous women to be reporters—so she quit. “My friends and family thought I was crazy,” she says. Nevertheless, they helped her raise $30,000 to launch GPI. The first news desk opened in Chiapas, Mexico; the second, in Nepal.

For the first four years, Hegranes did all the training; now she supervises staffers in-country. Seventy percent of funding comes from foundations and 30 percent from individuals. “This year’s budget, $250,000, is our biggest,” she says.

The impact
GPI reporters have broken important stories. Last year, for example, Tara Bhattarai, raised in a Nepalese village, wrote about violence against people in intercaste marriages. Her reporting, which included unprecedented interviews with victims, led to the passage of Nepal’s first law against caste discrimination. Also in 2011, Gertrude Pswarayi of Zimbabwe won a prestigious journalism award after she revealed that women campaigning for the opposition were raped by government enforcers.

The surprise
“I didn’t anticipate how GPI would change the status of these women,” Hegranes says. “Like the woman in Chiapas who was able to send her four children to school. Before, she was a servant; now people in her community thank her for her stories or say, ‘When are you going to interview me?’ We’re changing so many people’s lives.”

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First published in the June 2012 issue

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