In January, thanks to the gracious support of the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), I’ll be traveling to Uganda to report on underreported issues of democracy and governance ahead of the country’s 2016 presidential elections.

I’ve never been to Uganda, let alone Africa, and am excited at the chance to report in and experience a new country. A former professor recommended this book to read as a useful primer on the country, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it: The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda.

Given this reporting fellowship, India reporting and other plans are on hold for a bit while my schedule sorts itself out. I had almost forgotten that it takes time to secure a visa for a country. My OCI card has been very good to me in this respect.

I do hate that I am without my passport while I wait for this process, though. It’s like losing keys to a car for me, and I realize how much I rely on the capacity to move.

But the upside is that it has been very nice to be back in the United States during this time of year. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and now Christmas (and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa for those celebrating) and New Year’s. Perhaps it’s the influence of the holidays, but being around my family and old friends makes me feel almost more homesick for them than I was in India.

Of course the reverse is true for India, and even still Japan, although the latter feels much farther away. But someone — I can’t remember who — once asked me if I am sometimes homesick for India, and I was a little bit stunned that the answer might not be obvious. Of course I am. I learned long ago that one needs to distance herself from one experience and immerse herself into another in order to reap the full benefits it.

The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget is a useful title for so many instances of life.

The International Women’s Media Foundation has announced an unprecedented new set of funding opportunities for women journalists starting this year. The Washington D.C.-based organization dedicated to supporting the role of female journalists worldwide received a total of $10 million in grant funding from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which opens up the scope of their current offerings.

Half of the funding is dedicating to expanding IWMF’s existing international reporting trips in Africa’s Great Lakes region — in the Central African Republic, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda — and to conduct security training for both local and international journalists. The training will include both hostile environment training and the use of a mobile app called Reporta, to help in gathering and tracking information on violence and threats against journalists.

“That’s one side of the grant through which we hope to change the narrative of the Great Lakes region,” IWMF Executive Director Elisa Lees Muñoz told PBS MediaShift.

A portrait of 16-year-old Yusra Suleiman al Toum Ahmed in El Fasher, Sudan. Ms. Ahmed is an aspiring journalist. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran for the United Nations and reused here with Creative Commons license.

The other half of the funding will go toward establishing a fund in the name of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which would offer grants of up to $230,000 a year for the next 10 years. The funds would be distributed on a quarterly basis, and the criteria for funding has been purposefully left wide open. It could go toward anything from a book project to an investigate proposal, Muñoz said.

“Really, we haven’t defined the guidelines beyond saying it’s for women journalists looking to advance their careers in some way,” she told MediaShift. “It’s really going to be the basis of them telling us their needs and why they want to do what they want to do.”



IWMF is also creating a Courage in Photojournalism Award with a $1 million grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation in the name of AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus, who was killed on assignment in Afghanistan last year.

The IWMF is celebrating its 25th anniversary year in 2015. Especially with press freedom issues becoming even graver, Muñoz said it’s necessary to continue to support women, especially freelancers who might not operate under the support of a traditional news organization.

“We focus on women because we don’t feel there is an organization that does so, and as a result, women might fall through the cracks,” she said. “The investment made by the Howard Buffet Foundation to IWMF, and the true partnership to try to elevate the voices of women around the world is really going to make a difference.”

The first round of applications for the open-ended grants will take place from March 2 to March 23. More information is available on the IWMF website.

Sonia Paul is a freelance journalist based in India, and is the editorial assistant for PBS MediaShift. She’s on Twitter @sonipaul.

This piece originally published on February 9, 2015, on PBS MediaShift.