The Sylvester Stein Fellowship

The Sylvester Stein Fellowship is awarded annually by the Canon Collins Educational & Legal Assistance Trust in memory of the renowned author, journalist, anti-apartheid campaigner and longtime friend of the Trust. Since 2016, money donated by Sylvester’s friends and family has been used to support the development of talented southern African journalists with a focus on the promotion of human rights and social justice in the region.

 
 

2017 Sylvester Stein Fellow- Khutso Tsikane

The 2017 Sylvester Stein Fellowship was awarded to Khutso Tsikane, community radio broadcaster and news editor at Wits Radio Academy. The award funded her to attend an intensive three week leadership training workshop in Accra as part of the prestigious Moremi Initiative Leadership Empowerment and Development (MILEAD) program for outstanding emerging female leaders in Africa.

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A talented journalist and editor, Khutso has experience working across a variety of media to produce content that raises awareness of pertinent social issues, and advocating for African growth, women's empowerment and community development. Currently, Khutso produces weekly talk shows for Wits Radio Academy, exploring topics ranging from law and education to news and current affairs, which are broadcast on a number of community radio stations. In addition, she oversees a team of 15 volunteers who she trains in radio journalism and news reporting. Khutso’s current role as a broadcaster, editor, and educator will be greatly enhanced by her participation in this training programme as she will develop valuable skills in areas of effective communication, personal development and community organizing. Additionally, the training will provide an opportunity for Khutso to cross-examine concepts of leadership in a broad African context, cultivate the skills and experiences necessary to occupy and excel in her leadership position, and gain knowledge on cutting-edge issues critical to African women and their communities.

Following on from this training, the MILEAD program requires participants to establish a project that will facilitate change in their communities and, to this end, Khutso plans to implement a project that will create a network of community radio stations which are citizen-focused and provide vital educational and rights-based material to community radio listeners. In particular, she hopes to use the platform of community radio to engage marginalized groups within South African society, with a focus on rural women.

"Being able to effectively communicate and implement the community radio network requires an understanding of leadership theories that are relevant and applicable to organizations which are led by 'Ubuntu' and African values. Many of the communities I work in are deeply gendered and patriarchal and have no room for gender equality which means that some projects we have implemented proved unsustainable. The high prevalence of femicide and gender based violence in rural South Africa necessitates dialogues and interventions which are possible through community media. The role of rural women in development is also an area that is overlooked and can be engaged with through community media.”

 

2016 Sylvester Stein Fellow- Ruth Hopkins

In March 2016, the Canon Collins Educational & Legal Assistance Trust was pleased to award the inaugural Sylvester Stein Fellowship to Wits Justice Project journalist Ruth Hopkins. An award-winning journalist who has worked for the WJP for many years, Ruth used her Fellowship to travel to the United States in order to conduct research and compare criminal justice issues in South Africa and the US, analysing how race, demographics and the unequal distribution of wealth affects the systems in both nations.

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Ruth spent time as a visiting journalism fellow at two different organisations in the US, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery and the Marshall Project in New York. The EJI is a non-profit that strives for equal justice for all by drawing attention to the race bias underlying America’s criminal justice issues, through legal representation of those who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system. The Marshall Project, like the WJP, is a non-profit non-partisan journalism organisation whose mission it is to raise public awareness around issues of criminal justice and the possibility for reform.

By spending time working alongside civil society organisations addressing criminal justice reform in the US, Ruth uncovered instructive similarities and differences that helped inform her approach to investigative journalism and legal activism in South Africa.

Ruth was honoured to undertake this research in Sylvester’s name, and felt determined “to do justice to Sylvester Stein’s important legacy of brave and uncompromising journalism.”

Her articles, which examine a wide range of criminal justice issues, including the legacy of slavery, police brutality and sexual violence in prisons, were widely published across a variety of South African media outlets.

Upon returning to South Africa, Ruth reflected:

“In contrast with what I witnessed in the US, I came to realise that South African laws, in themselves, are not disproportionately cruel. However, the SA criminal justice system is disproportionately punitive towards the poor. Not because its laws set out to achieve that, but because poverty has a domino effect: people don’t have access to quality education, don’t know their rights and are dependent on an overstretched and under resourced legal aid system.”

 

Show your support

You can help support pioneering and courageous journalism in southern Africa by making a donation to the Sylvester Stein Fellowship fund.