The World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) has named Mary Mbewe, the Executive Editor of the Daily Nation, one of the three major newspapers in Zambia as the 2020 Women in News (WIN) Editorial Leadership Award Laureate for Africa.
WAN-IFRA made the announcement during its Digital Media Africa conference on Tuesday.
Ms Mbewe is celebrated for her dedication to telling human interest stories of marginalised communities. She is a trail blazer and boasts 30 years of experience in the media industry.
She served as the first woman Editor-in-Chief of a major newspaper in Zambia.
The WAN-IFRA WIN Editorial Leadership Award recognises excellence in leadership, and an unwavering commitment to equality and press freedom.
The award recognises an exemplary contribution of an editor to her newsroom in Africa and in the Middle East, and under her leadership, the contribution of the media industry.
Candidates are selected by a team comprising of members of the WIN Steering Committee as well as previous laureates.
Previous winners of the award include Kenya’s Pamella Sittoni, who is Executive Editor of the Daily Nation.
Ms Mbewe is also credited for training and investing in the development of journalists in their formative years in the career as a mentor, and an inspiration to many women journalists.
WAN-IFRA CEO Vincent Peyrègne congratulated the laureate for the achievement, noting that the award had come at the right time.
“Recognizing leadership and celebrating excellence is even more important in today’s context. While media and the world remain gripped in this crisis of the global pandemic, Mary continues to exemplify excellence and resiliency bringing everyday news and human stories day after day,” said the CEO.
He termed the editor’s win this year of particular significance as WAN-IFRA marks the 10th anniversary of its work in gender equality and media freedom in Zambia.
“We are very honoured to welcome Mary into our esteemed group of Laureates, each of whom inspire and pave the way forward for the next generation of leaders,” added Melanie Walker, Executive Director, Media Development and Women in News, WAN-IFRA.
In her acceptance remarks, the editor reaffirmed her commitment to telling authentic human interest stories that often go unnoticed in her country.
“I am happy to be part of a team shaping a different narrative in supporting ordinary people. This award is therefore dedicated to all the hardworking men and women who spend hours making life easy for others, such as the women in shelters,” she said.
Ms Mbewe has held her current position since May 2017 when she joined the company. She had previously served as a Chief Sub Editor and Personnel Officer.
She started her journalism career with the Zambia Daily Mail in 1991 and by 2000 was confirmed as Editor-in-Chief, becoming the first woman at the paper, and in Zambia as a whole, to hold the prestigious position. Mary is a founding member of the Zambia Union of journalists (ZUJ), and a member of the Zambia Media Women Association (ZAMWA) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)’s Zambian Chapter.
Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s award ceremony was held virtually.
“It was our intention to hold an in-person Award Ceremony at the upcoming WAN-IFRA News Media Congress as is the tradition,” said Peyrègne.
“The Congress itself was cancelled due to Covid-19, but we are hopeful that we can hold it as planned in June 2021, with Mary Mbewe being in attendance to accept the award at that time.”
Other past laureates from Sub-Saharan Africa are Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye from Nigeria (2014), Barbara Kaija from Uganda (2018) and Anna Nimiriano from South Sudan (2019).
The 2020 laureate for the Middle East will be named later this month.