Jamila Akweley Okertchiri, Daily Guide reporter and JHR-mentored journalist, won Best Feature Writer at the Ghana Journalism Association’s prestigious annual awards ceremony. The winning story, Six Years of False Hopes: Disabled Still Struggle After 2006 Law, contributed strongly to the Ghanaian government’s decision to issue benefits, promised but never distributed, to disabled Ghanaians. “My motivation has always been to be the voice of the voiceless,” said Okertchiri, acknowledging JHR’s PANEL journalism structure as a key tool in her work.
Okertchiri’s produced her winning story while being mentored by JHR trainer Paul Carlucci. The pair spent two weeks interviewing disabled Ghanaians and their advocates and gathering secondary sources. After navigating multiple government jurisdictions, Okertchiri secured official records that showed the Persons with Disabilities Act benefit payment system was disorganized and many payments were stalled or never paid. Following the story’s publication, “The Accra Metropolitan Assembly gave out GH¢25,700 to 30 persons with disability as their share of the (Act-sanctioned) Common Fund to support their activities,” said Okertchiri. At the time of researching and writing her story, Okertchiri was beginning her career under the auspices of Ghana’s national service. She has since graduated into a fully professional role.
Maxwell Suuk of Diamond FM, Edem Srem of TV Africa and Isaac Kaledzi of CITI FM – all JHR-mentored journalists – were also awarded for their work at the award ceremony. All of their winning stories were focused on human rights issues.