Undergraduate Wins Guardian International Development Journalism Award
23 November 2011
A second-year undergraduate history student at SOAS has won a top prize in the Guardian’s International Development Journalism Competition.
Kiran Flynn's story on early and forced marriage in Bangladesh won the prize for best article by an amateur journalist. The story appears in a special supplement published by the Guardian on Wednesday.
"The awards ceremony was held at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly, which was a lovely venue, and it was very exciting to be surrounded by some of the leading people in development and journalism," Flynn said. "I was so nervous before the winners were announced, and couldn’t believe it when they said my name.
"My topic was something that I had little knowledge of before but I now believe deserves special attention, as it is one of the most obvious yet underreported forms of abuse," she added. "It’s a real honour to have won, and I hope it will help to bring the issue of child marriage to people’s attention.
The Guardian International Development Journalism Competition was established in 2008 to highlight issues facing the developing world which the newspaper believes are often overlooked or underrepresented by the media. The judges chose as winners one professional and one amateur journalist entry.
Flynn entered the competition in June, submitting an article on challenges faced by disabled girls in the Solomon Islands, where she had just spent a year’s leave of absence from SOAS volunteering with Transparency International.
The judges shortlisted her entry along with those of seven other amateur journalists, who were all sent to developing countries to research their final entries.
The Guardian sent Flynn to Bangladesh, where she was hosted by Plan, a children’s charity which works in some of the world’s poorest countries.
"It was great to see the inspirational work being carried out by Plan Bangladesh, particularly the projects with children’s groups in underprivileged areas," Flynn said. "The interviews I did with a children's group in Bashantek, a slum in the capital city Dhaka, was the highlight of the trip--meeting young people who are passionate about making a difference in their community was so motivating.
"When I got home I had two and a half weeks to write up my piece, and I barely left my computer the whole time. I wanted to include every interview I’d done because I felt that everyone’s story deserved telling, so it was hard work to pick and choose," she added.
Imogen Wilson, head of communications for Plan UK, the British wing of the charity which hosted Flynn, had nothing but praise for the SOAS student.
“Kiran really impressed us with the work she put into researching the topic, preparing her interviews and producing the prize-winning article,” she said. “Child marriage is one of the biggest development issues of our time, and we’re delighted that Kiran has helped raise awareness of the problems young girls face in Bangladesh.”
Flynn returned to London in the autumn to resume her studies.
"It's been great to come back to SOAS after the whole experience and be in a place where I can use what I've learnt," she said. "I've always valued studying at SOAS because it's the only higher institution I know of that allows us to marry practical experience of development with the theory."
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