China Program Alum Exposes "Slum Girls'" Struggles in Kenya

Jul 82013

Chen Yingying (Lulu), a correspondent for Xinhua News Agency in Nairobi, Kenya, recently did a report on teenage girls that was picked up and republished by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Lulu is a 2011 graduate of the Global Business Journalism master's program, a project of the International Center for Journalists and Tsinghua University, where it is based.

Yingying investigated the dire consequences faced by teenage girls in Kenya who cannot afford sanitary napkins.

The article described how "slum girls" are unable to afford sanitary napkins and resort to using socks, rags, waste paper and even clay during their periods. Sometimes lack of pads forces them to stay home, miss school days, fall behind and then fail to graduate.

"In the world's biggest refugee camp, Dadaab of North Kenya, girls have to barter food aid for pads," Lulu wrote in an email. "Some even resort to prostitution to get money for pads." (The article is available only in Chinese.)

"I got the story by walking into Africa's biggest urban slum, Kibera, and Mathare, another slum in Nairobi. I saw the poor girls in the school. They are hard working students. I'm happy to see there are some NGOs to help these girls, but the progress is slow and the problem remains unsolved. Only a slight bit of money would help them, but the corruption here often stops funds from going to the needy."

Lulu is responsible for all of Xinhua's coverage of Kenya and Somalia and supervises 20 local staff. She says that means "almost all work and no social life, but working here is a life-changing experience where I have seen a lot that I could never have seen but for working here."

Her previous posting for Xinhua was in Inner Mongolia. In December, she sat down for an interview before heading to Kenya. She was asked about the importance of the Global Business Journalism Program (GBJ) in her career.

"The most impressive thing is GBJ really gave me a global vision about journalism," she said. "Before I was only thinking about getting a job in Beijing, maybe China. In GBJ I could listen to lectures from global leaders in journalism, from international professors like Lee Miller and Margie Freaney. They taught me a lot of impressive things.

"Another thing is I have friends from all over the world, countries like Ethiopia, India, any place you can imagine. Their ideas inspired me to see the world in a different perspective. That really helped me a lot, because at Xinhua we're doing global news."

Professor Margie Freaney wrote of Lulu, "She has the ideal characteristics of a reporter: curiosity, enthusiasm, persistence and empathy. As a student and as a professional journalist, she has shown a rare talent for spotting terrific stories, often overlooked by others, and turning them into fascinating articles."