The Mail &Gurdian says it has partnered with Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) Southern Africa to create anual fellowship in social-justice reporting to honour the work of the late Eugene Saldanha, activist, civil society leader and policy adviser, and my former boss and mentor, whose life's work was fighting for social justice.
According to the M&G, "The Eugene Saldanha Memorial Fund Fellowship will enable a young journalist to spend a year working at the paper on poverty, inequality and the realisation of human and socioeconomic rights. The fund, which will finance the fellowship, is administered by CAF Southern Africa, which Saldanha founded. It is supported by individual donations and the generosity of international private foundations with which he was associated."
I cannot tell you how excited I am that Eugene's work is going to be recognised in that manner. I worked with Eugene from 2001 to the end of 2004, and I learnt a lot from him.
I doubt my career would have taken the turn it did if it weren't for his guidance and mentorship. Yes, even the tech part can be attributed indirectly to him, because through the advocacy work we did through the Non Profit Partnership and Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa, I learnt to appreciate what each piece of legislation can mean to various stakeholders, which led to my keen interest in the Electronic Communication Act and what it means for various stakeholders.
That work also set the platform for my interest in the Shukumisa campaign, because once again, it's all about what the law says, whether it's implemented as was intended and what else we can do to change the system for the better. Through Eugene's influence, the law and its impact on all of us has come alive for me, and it's a wonderful gift that he gave me.
Eugene also used to have such a lot of confidence in me. He'd tell people re all things communications, "Damaria can do it and if she can't, I'm sure she can find someone for you who can." So usually,people were predisposed to think I was wonderful long before they even met me or had seen the work I could actually do.
Lastly, Eugene grew to be a good friend.Underneath all the energy and passion to social justice and our jobs, he was a good friend who somehow understood the challenges of being a single parent and created an environment where childcare was not a desperate issue.
For e.g.on school holidays he encouraged us to bring our kids along work, so they can play in the work premises and occassionally spend time with us while we work.And if you had to travel with work, which I did quite a bit, there were times I or other employees could bring our very young kids, and other employees simply adapted, because the big boss made it look natural. Poor Baby, she sat through quite a few seminars on the Income Tax Act before she was even 5!
So, I'm happy that Eugene is being honoured in this manner, because it means that his work will not be forgotten. And there will be more young journos and writers and activists that he has a positive impact on, even if it is post-humously.