Investigating Women and Violence in Africa

Call for story proposals: Our fifth and final Transnational Investigation (TI) under the SIDA funded grant programme in 2013 will focus on “Women and Violence in Africa”, open to both male and female journalists. [Deadline: 25 July 2013]

We are seeking to produce an investigation that will be characterized by fearless and original probing into the structural causes – and myriad layers – of violence. This may begin with women (sex workers, female circumcision etc) or it may be the consequence of policies that systematically and lethally impact women as mothers, heads of households, majority subsistence farmers etc. The role of male writers will be as important as female writers.

Pitches should include the original investigative angle/s, your core questions, your areas of experience and expertise, methodology, samples of previously challenging work, and references. It should also include a letter of motivation ie: why is the subject matter important, and more specifically, why is it important to you.

What is the originality we are looking for?

Political violence as well as the physical is often the first point of identification….But what defines the geography of violence and its essence?

Examples of economic violence, for instance, could include microfinance – constructed on the promise of the ‘poor women’. Is it really beneficial and advantageous for previously ‘unbankable’ women to be financially included through high-interest peer-pressure structures, such as Nigeria’s LAPO (which offered interest rate at 140%)?  What happens when poverty takes on another more lethal dimension stemming from expensive credit – ie: debt? If socio-cultural context is patriarchal, and women perceived as the property of men, do they become conduits of capital for male relatives? How is the money used – to start businesses as often posed by NGO microfinance institutes or for basic needs (as admitted by FINCA head)? When and how is repayment determined? Are lending groups solidarity structures or peer pressure? What happens when women cannot pay – will it become a criminal act as in Egypt, mass suicide as in India, stigmatisation and dispossession of women as in Bangladesh ? How accountable and/or opaque is the actual process? Where do the profits go? Who audits the institution’s financial papers?

Examples of cultural violence could include the inherited Trokosi penal system in Ghana, Benin, Togo etc – young virgins given in bondage to the village priests as a means of appeasing the Gods for crimes committed now (or in the past) by family members. Menstruation brings sexual slavery. How much of this still continues – allegedly as many as 40 000? To what extent does the paper law protect these girls as opposed to the practicable law of the village? Where NGOs and government gets involved, how does the family perceive intervention?

Examples of socio-ecological violence could include slum-based mothers in countries like Angola, Nigeria, Kenya who spend much of the day searching for water – earning money to buy it, finance it, electricity to boil it. Angola is one of Africa’s most water-rich nations yet the poor must often access untreated water, purchased from one of the more than 300 lorries private arriving in Luanda from pumping stations like Kifangondo. The lack of clean and constant water has created myriad dire health infections including the resurgence of polio and the highest under-five mortality rate. More than $4 billion has been invested in creating water systems, largely invested in Chinese partners. Where has the money gone? What has become of the capital-intensive public sector water-company? Luanda, built for 400 000 but hosting over 5 million citizens lies on the verge of massive health epidemic.

Please send your story proposals by email to and copy to, by not later than 25 July 2013.

We look forward to your participation.

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