Esther Nakkazi (’08) is a freelance journalist who lives and works in Uganda, where she covers health and environment. Her blog Uganda Sciegirl addresses a wide range of healthcare issues and scientific research in East Africa. Before arriving at the Knight Fellowship, she had been working as a general assignment reporter at a weekly newspaper called The East African, which covers events in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Seminars at Harvard’s School of Public Health proved especially useful for Nakkazi. When she returned to Uganda after her fellowship year, Nakkazi focused on health and science more specifically than she had before, and eventually graduated from her newspaper’s “media house” to freelancing for international publications, such as Nature and New Scientist. She also frequently reports for SciDevNet, a non-profit that promotes science and science communication in developing countries around the world.
Being a freelance jouranlist in East Africa can be tough, Nakkazi says. “Many people do not stay in the profession for long due to poor renumeration,” she wrote to KSJ in an email. “In Uganda particularly, the saturation is limited so with few media houses to bounce, many go off to become PR [public relations] and communication officials.” However, Nakkazi and others are actively working to build a networking infrastructure for African science journalists. She is one of the founders of the Health Journalist Network in Uganda (HEJNU), a journalists’ organization that organizes conferences and publishes guides to covering various medical issues in Uganda. She also mentors journalists from countries as far apart as Nigeria, Mozambique, Ghana, and Zambia through the World Federation of Science Journalists’ mentoring program.