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First Southern African Gender and Media Awards presented in Johannesburg.

Sabrina Quirin stared up at the ceiling as she fought back the emotions and was for a moment lost for words as she was declared the winner in the print category of the first Southern African Gender and Media Awards presented in Johannesburg on Sunday night.

Tears welling-up in her eyes, the Mauritian journalist said: "It is a pride for me to win this prize as it brings tidings of good news, encouragement and recognition of my work as journalist." Quirin won for her story "These "Misters" that toddlers call "Miss", about two men running a day-care centre, published in Weekend, a weekly newspaper in Mauritius.

Quirin was one of five award winners of the first Southern African Gender and Media Awards presented at the Gender and Media Summit, that took place in September in Johannesburg. The awards, sponsored by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) and Gender Links, co-organisers of the summit, were presented in the categories print, television, radio, opinion and commentary, and photography to recognise sensitive and balanced reporting on gender issues. In total, 76 entries were submitted from eight countries in the region.

When her name was announced, Babongile Thabede, a former student at Durban Institute of Technology, flashed a V-sign for victory and exclaimed: "This is a dream come true. I wasn't expecting such recognition as it was my first attempt in making a documentary." She and her two teammates were runners-up for their documentary, "Ihlo Lentombi", (isiZulu for "The eye of the virgin"). The documentary explores the issue of virginity testing in KwaZulu-Natal, the challenges facing the practice in the era of HIV/Aids, and the balance between traditional values and human rights.

In her keynote address Mail and Guardian editor Ferial Haffajee said campaigns to make space for gender issues in the media are having an effect. "The presentation of media and gender awards tonight is an affirmation of this. I hope those who have won the awards will go from strength to strength."

The awards ceremony was the highlight of the first day of the Gender and Media Summit. The awards demonstrate that reporting of gender issues in the media is improving across southern Africa.

Farai Samhungu, regional director of Inter-Press Service Africa and chair of the judges' panel, described the entries as "a resounding testimony to the progress that is being made in southern Africa towards presenting gender issues in ways that spark debate and make more professional, robust journalism".

The winners and finalists of the first Southern African Gender and Media Awards are:

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* Sabrina Quirin of Mauritius, first prize in the print category; the runner-up was Sarah Taylor of Namibia.

* In the Opinion and Commentary category, the first prize went to Everjoice Win of Zimbabwe. The runner-up in this category was Yazeed Kamaldien of South Africa.

* A photographic reportage entitled "From the heart of darkness" by Lori Waselchuk of South Africa won the first prize in the photography category. The runner-up prize went to Shamiso Mapure of Zimbabwe.

* In the television category, Puleng Mokhoane of the South African Broadcasting Corporation won the first prize. The runner-up in this category was Thozama Mbili and her student team from South Africa.

* Hilary Mbobe of Malawi was the only winner in the radio category for his story "Debt and daughters" about fathers in northern Malawi who sell their daughters, some as young as ten, to pay debts.
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Author:Okwemba, Arthur
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:Oct 1, 2004
Words:567
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