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I was scared. I became ill. I felt out of place doing an interview. I thought I had understood it all wrongly. The more I pondered this kind of writing, the more I felt that I’m not in my right place. I looked at the next two modules and I increasingly felt that it is not what I want to be doing. I did not realise, when I signed up, that to be a voice of the future would need such a heavy leaning on formal journalism. This frightened me.

I pondered very deeply about writing so much about personal achievement, and I knew that my interviewee felt the same way. It is not a bad thing to do, writing about the achievement of others, I do not doubt the goodness of doing that. But then I thought, there is such an abyss between the daily reality of finding food and safety for your family – the 'bread and butter' issues - that to be looking at others who have achieved accolades and prizes while one is at the bottom of your valley, is not how life really works. (Just telling you how my mind was jumping)

So I wondered, who will be reading my report? Women who are in there, still struggling? Is writing about someone else's successes – well deserved they might be – is that the kind of story that one wants to hear when you feel you are just about to give up? When one is in an abyss of despair, is it not news about the next step within the abyss which is more important? In my view much needed guidance on the next small steps of the journey through the valley is of much more use than being able to see the well-lit peak, where interviewees seem to be, when you're at the bottom, staring up.

Oh dear, I was confused.

Then, I thought, many of us activists on VOF and in WP and elsewhere come through a long period of working with people who are suffering so very intensely compared to ourselves. I felt awkward about delving into my interviewee's personal life when she indicated, very gently, that she prefers to remain ‘private’.

I’ll give you an example: In those days, when she and I were underground-comrades, those of us who were fortunate enough to get university degrees were embarrassed even about going to graduation ceremonies, we were so conscious of the other millions who could never get there, so a lot of us were never capped. A kind of political statement. This sounds a bit outdated and silly today, but it means that I instinctively understood her reticence about making reference to her background. I had to respect that.

There are so many other issues which came up for me – such as my separateness from my community (I feel fraudulent living in Europe away from the ongoing struggles in S Africa); my ignorance of the political landscape of my country... a lot of things……

I found it difficult to see how my report could satisfy the first part of the module, that is to do a profile. I felt more confident, in a way, about the second and third elements of this module, which were to speak about solutions, and to address how the solution/s might be replicated elsewhere.

I also looked at copy from you other ladies who write so fluently and eloquently. I so much admired the other articles which were coming through, and felt inadequate because I did not know where to start.

A journalist I certainly did not (and still do not) feel!

What did I do well, then, I ask myself? I stayed in touch with my midwife and mentor!

They were just so very, very supportive. I do not have words enough to thank them – and the VOF programme for its forsightedness in putting them into the structure. Had it not been for those two ladies at the other two ends of our global triangle – Michelle in South Africa and Elaine in California and me in Europe – if it was not for them touching me with their attention and concern, and encouraging me not to buckle – had it not been for them, I would have withdrawn from this assignment.

What will I do better next time around? Dunno…..!

Thank you everyone for your honest reportage and thank you Michelle and Elaine for your wonderful energy and keen insight which is keeping me going.


WILDKat's picture


Delightful to read your honest start in the Voices of the Future process. I imagine as you develop your voice with practice your honesty will brighten all of us lucky enough to read your writing.

Naturally grateful,
Kat Haber

"Know thyself." ~ Plato

Monica Clarke's picture

Dear Kat

Dear Kat

Thank you for taking the time to write back to me. I looked at the various projects you are involved with, you busy girl, and am impressed by your energy. I looked at TedxWomen (not sure if that was what it was called) and am impressed. Perhaps, at some stage in the future, I might come back to you to see how we might ask TedxWomen to support an idea which I have of getting men involved in Gender Based Violence and the abolition thereof? Just thinking. I'm sending you a friend request and will loop you in when I get my thoghts together.

Again, thanks so much for responding. Love and hugs from Monica in France

Monica Clarke, Writer & Storyteller, bringing human rights alive.
I wish you 'Nangamso', that is: May you continue to do the good work which you do so well.
(A blessing from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi, the first people of South Africa).

Nusrat Ara's picture

You have done quite some

You have done quite some thinking and you have been courageous enough to share it with all. We all have struggles and dilemmas and you have penned yours. I think you have written what a lot of people feel. I had heard this argument before. But then you have found your way as well.

A lot of people do get inspired as well by people who have faced odds and achieved something. No one actually has a smooth life. There is so much to learn from others. And we write with that belief. Isn't it

I hope by the time your training finishes things are much clearer in you heard. And don't forget we are always there for you.

I loved your effort and honesty.

Lots of love


Monica Clarke's picture

Thanks Nusrat

Thanks for writing to me, Nusrat.

It means a lot to me to hear from someone who has walked the journalist's path that it is ok to have the doubts I've had - and to give me the encouragement that by the time I go through this course I might have cleared my thinking. I have so almost given up, you won't believe how close I got to it. Yes, I do agree that the achievements of others are strong drivers when the future looks dark, of course I do! I just needed to say how I was feeling and thinking at the time before and during the interview.

I still have to clear something in my own head, though, while I pursue this programme: Who is the reader? I am mulling over this, for when I wrote for publication before it mostly was for professional journals, where one knows who you are writing for. Human rights issues per se are a new ground for me. Perhaps you could guide me here when you get a thought or two to throw my way?

Thanks again for taking the time to write to me and all my blessings to you in the work which you do.


Monica Clarke, Writer & Storyteller, bringing human rights alive.
I wish you 'Nangamso', that is: May you continue to do the good work which you do so well.
(A blessing from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi, the first people of South Africa).

Nusrat Ara's picture

Feel free to ask for help

Feel free to ask for help whenever you are having some thoughts :) You know journalism can be so frustrating. So many times we find that nothing has changed after a report is out in the newspaper. It can be so discouraging. But then what else can we do. We can't stop doing what we can. And in a region of conflict like where I like it is very important.

I often tell this. I have a friend who was facing domestic violence. She shared it with no one not even her family but me. She one day asked me. " why don't you write about it". My thoughts were " But how will it changed your situation" I didn't dare tell her that. And then she said " You should" the faith she had in me is the kind that keeps us going on. When you are out in the people talk to you with a faith, that you can do something about it. This can be killing. You know your limitations.

I was doing a story on the gun making artisans of the valley. Here is the link
When I left the place it left me wondering. I knew injustice was being done to them. So much had been written on them . Still no change. Mine will be another story. I consoled myself that this is all I could do. A few days ago a Senior of Correspondent of a world renowned agency mailed praising my story and telling me that he is considering writing about them. Another renowned and award winning journalist praised the story. But life remains the same for the artisans.

But then again there are instances where actions have been taken because of the reports. We can't stop trying. If nothing we make people aware.

So keep going on.



Fungai Machirori's picture

Honesty reigns!

Thanks Michelle for your honesty. I completey fully understand what you mean because I too have been there, doubting what my words can change, wondering if I am the right person to speak on behalf of communities of women I may not have direct links to. I did the VOF course last year (I am Zimbabwean) and was studying in the UK at the time. I also felt those feelings of fear and uncertainty that you explain.

But di you know what? To whom much is given, much is expected too. You may not realise it, but just by your writing you are doing something; you are helping people identify themselves with your vulnerability, you are being you.

So be you. Let the fear come but don't let it rule you.

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

Monica Clarke's picture

Thanks, girl

Thanks Fungai, you encourge me a lot. I've just looked at your blog . Wow! You really have a way with words. Good for you, you! You are a trailblazer for other young people, who look up to you and admire you. As I do.

I tried to see you on Youtube ...but could not find a performance of I'm not Ketchup. If you have done it, send me a link, pleeeez, and if you have not done it on video - GO AND DO IT!!!

Love and hugs from Monica in France

Monica Clarke, Writer & Storyteller, bringing human rights alive.
I wish you 'Nangamso', that is: May you continue to do the good work which you do so well.
(A blessing from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi, the first people of South Africa).

Michelle Coburn's picture

Thanks for sharing

Hi Monica, This is such an honest, expressive post that gives valuable insight into your feelings and thought process while you were working on your first assignment. Thank you for kind words to me, and also for reaching out and trusting in the support of your network. Your writing is touching so many people already - here's to a whole lot more!

Love Michelle

Pushpa Achanta's picture

Candid writing

Thanks dear Monica for this realistic reflection on something that many of us experience but don't voice often. Btw, I believe that peaceful yet strong political statements and protests are always powerful messages and never silly or outdated.

Hope u'll continue u'r determined expression.


Monica Clarke's picture


Hi Pushpa

Thanks for your encouragement, you! I've sent you a message elsewhere, coz I admire you.

Love and hugs from Monica in France

Monica Clarke, Writer & Storyteller, bringing human rights alive.
I wish you 'Nangamso', that is: May you continue to do the good work which you do so well.
(A blessing from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi, the first people of South Africa).

mrbeckbeck's picture

Love your honesty

Thank you for sharing your honest reflections here. It's nice to see your candid comments about struggling with the ups and downs of the process. Great work on the final assignment, thanks to your courage, skill and the supportive community here!

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Monica Clarke's picture

Just been through it again, Scott

Just been through it again, Scott. Phew! Second one down, two to go, but still running.

Thanks for your encouragement.

Love and hugs from Monicai in France

Monica Clarke, Writer & Storyteller, bringing human rights alive.
I wish you 'Nangamso', that is: May you continue to do the good work which you do so well.
(A blessing from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi, the first people of South Africa).

Insha Allah's picture

Honesty is the best policy!

Dear Monica,

What an honest reflection! I really appreciate with your honest and thoughtful reflection. Thanks for sharing with us. I have no doubt in my mind that you can keep going for the best.

With Love,
Insah Allah

Shwe Wutt Hmon

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