By Abhijeet Ahluwalia
A Platform journalist, Sylvia Rowley, scooped a prestigious national journalism award from The Guardian last week.
Rowley, pictured second from right, triumphed in the fiercely contested amateur category of The Guardian International Development Journalism Competition last Thursday, and spoke of her shock and excitement at being presented the award.
“I’d spent the day convincing myself I wasn’t going to win so I wouldn’t be disappointed,” she said. “But they gave a clue to who had won by alluding to the story and I suddenly realised it could be me, and then they read out my name – it was brilliant!”
The competition was open to both amateurs and professionals, who wrote on diverse themes such as water scarcity, disability and poverty.
Rowley’s path to victory began almost a year ago and nearly 4,000 miles away. “I was in India for the first few months of the year. So my first story for the competition was about a women’s trade union called SEWA in Gujarat, India, which I submitted in April.”
She added: “It was only in late June that I came to know I was one of the eight amateur finalists, when I was sent back to India to write about HIV prevention among homosexual men in India.”
“The majority of the world lives in developing countries and the really big social issues of our time will be played out there,” said Rowley. “It’s so important not to tell these stories in a clichéd way like much of the coverage we get of the developing world. We need to hear about them in a fresh and true way.”
Not one to rest on her laurels, Sylvia is already planning how she can use her prize money to aid her journalistic work in the future.
“I want to buy a small laptop and a semi-professional digital camera so I can take it with me when I’m writing stories on the road. I love photography and what I’d really love to do is be able to take my pictures and write stories at the same time.
“I think its important that both work together, and its quite good to have the same person thinking about both, so that the ideas in one can be reflected in the other.”
Sylvia Rowley reads her article ‘Telling our secrets’