By: Grant McDonald from Juba, South Sudan
How often do you find yourself seeking out inspiration? We often scroll through our Facebook page for a link, Reddit for its memes and Buzzfeed for its lists. We rely on pillows and coffee mugs that tell us to laugh and live, we place pictures of cats “hanging in there” on our cubicle walls.
But what if we’re looking in all the wrong places? What if that co-worker we awkwardly pass by several times a day with the obligatory “how’s it going?” holds a story of personal redemption and triumph, what if that barista who spells your name wrong everyday on your to-go cup is someone’s personal hero. Chances are, inspiration is all around us waiting to be found.
A wonderful quality of inspiration is that it comes in many forms. This past week I have found inspiration in the form of equality.
Since being in South Sudan with Journalists for Human Rights, I consistently attempt to increase the number of female journalists attending my Rights Media workshops…but it’s challenging. The number of male journalists in the profession far outweigh the number of women. Some media houses prefer to send male journalists to the workshops because they are more senior and other media houses simply do not employ a single female journalist.
However, there is something stirring in South Sudan. Something which could signal a palpable movement in media equality and diversity. A newly formed media house called Equator Broadcast Corporation (EBC).
The station has yet to launch, but it has hired a team of driven, intelligent and brave journalists, editors, camera operators, producers, graphic designers of whom I found myself standing in front of this week soaking in the inspiration they seemed to exude. I also – for the first time – found myself hosting a workshop for 41 participants, 50 per cent of them being female.
What was wonderful about this team, was that regardless of tribe, creed or gender, they worked in symbiotic motion. Speaking with management of EBC I expressed my excitement with their decision to hire with such equality. Their response was simple and eloquent, “it makes us a stronger unit.”
I was left speechless at the end of the workshop when I was presented with a gift from the station, a sculpture of a circle of friends representing an unbreakable bond and a continuous source of inspiration.
The station – as well as media as a whole here — has a long road ahead of it. Reporters Without Borders latest report on media freedom around the world places South Sudan 125th on a list of 180 countries.
However, against great odds, these young women and men will continue to push their nation forward all the while creating a by-product of inspiration for me.
So close the laptop, lose the lists and mum the memes. Find inspiration in your co-workers, ask the barista to tell you her story. I guarantee, it will supersede an image of a cat “hanging in there.”