Social video: a special partnership with the Guardian

Sahar Speaks has been named a winner of the Jim Bettinger News Innovation Fund at Stanford University. 

“Around the world, JSK alumni are at the forefront of helping journalism improve how information reaches communities and how news organizations tell the stories of people whose voices often are not heard,” said Dawn Garcia, director of the JSK Fellowships. The initiative launched in 2016 in honor of longtime Director James Bettinger, who retired from the program after 27 years.

This funding will allow us to launch our third round, to take place sometime in the winter/spring of 2018, in Kabul. Selected alumnae will work on humanitarian-centered social video journalism in partnership with the Guardian's Global Development division. 



Our visual storytelling round is published by HuffPost

Following our second round of journalism training, nine new stories were published this
week by HuffPost – all reported and captured by Afghan female journalists on the ground.
After their two weeks of training at the end of last year in Kabul, they were mentored by
experienced female journalists from all over the world, who helped guide and refine their
stories for publication.

The standard of applications was extremely high this year. There was an eclectic mix of
graduates, talented photographers and experienced journalists, all of whom were from
different backgrounds with different stories to tell. This time round, we expanded our reach
beyond Kabul, and trained participants also from Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif and Bamiyan.
This round focused on visual storytelling. The women produced films and photo-essays that
provided a snapshot of Afghan life. One woman told us what it’s like to be a female police
officer in Afghanistan. Another relayed the story of Afghan students and their return to
university after it was attacked by the Taliban. We also heard about women who have
become successful businesswomen and family breadwinners, even when all odds were
stacked against them.

“Two years ago, not a single Afghan woman worked for the English-language, foreign media
outlets in Kabul. As a result, they were often painted as either record-breaking heroes or
pitiful victims. Not much came in between. This is why I founded Sahar Speaks.” Amie Ferris-
Rotman, Sahar Speaks founder.

To get in touch, and to arrange interviews: and on Twitter: @Sahar_Speaks

Apply to be a Sahar Speaks participant

We are currently accepting applications for the second round of Sahar Speaks, which will focus exclusively on visual storytelling. You do not need to have experience of visual journalism to apply. There are 10 places available and applicants are required to hold an Afghan passport. We are accepting applications from female journalists based in Kabul, Bamiyan, Kandahar and Herat (applicants must currently live in Afghanistan). Applicants also need a working knowledge of English. Please send all of the following items in one document to

  • CV detailing your work both in and out of journalism 
  • Photo of yourself 
  • 500 words stating why you want to become a Sahar Speaks participant 
  • 300 words on what story you would like to investigate/tackle and how you would go about it
  • 2 samples of your work (written and/or video and/or photography) preferably in English but not necessarily. 

Successful candidates will receive a 2-week-long training in Kabul, mentoring, a generous stipend if you finish the programme, and your work published internationally. 

Good luck! 

Deadline: October 7th, 2016


Sahar Speaks founder wins British Press Award

On March 22, 2016, our founder Amie Ferris-Rotman won the Georgina Henry Women in Journalism Award for Innovation. The award, named in honour of the Guardian's late deputy editor, was presented to Amie for her work on Sahar Speaks at the British Press Awards in London.

L-R: MC Nick Ferrari, Amie Ferris-Rotman, Wiggins LLP Partner Caroline Kean, and The Sunday Times Editorial Director and Chair of Women in Journalism Eleanor Mills 

L-R: MC Nick Ferrari, Amie Ferris-Rotman, Wiggins LLP Partner Caroline Kean, and The Sunday Times Editorial Director and Chair of Women in Journalism Eleanor Mills 



(PRESS RELEASE) Introducing Sahar Speaks: A new programme for Afghan female journalists

The inaugural round of Sahar Speaks takes off in March 2016, when a selected group of 10 Afghan female journalists will receive training in Kabul. This will be followed by international mentorships and their work published in The Huffington Post, the world’s largest English-language news site.

Sahar Speaks is unique: it is the first programme of its kind to produce high-quality journalism by Afghanistan-based, local female correspondents in a global media outlet.

The project was created in response to the appalling lack of Afghan women reporters at the foreign media in Kabul. Not a single Afghan woman works at any of the foreign news outlets, in any capacity. This has been a systemic failure by the international press. In Afghanistan, where the genders are largely segregated, most Afghan women cannot talk to most men. Not hiring Afghan women has created a gaping hole in the country’s foreign coverage.

Afghanistan has 9,000 local journalists, of whom 2,000 are women. There is no shortage when it comes to their abilities. We were overwhelmed by the number of applications we received.

“How can the world see the true Afghan story, if there are no Afghan female writers, photographers, camera operators or TV producers at foreign news outlets?” Amie Ferris-Rotman, Sahar Speaks founder.

Amie Ferris-Rotman created Sahar Speaks at Stanford University, where she was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow in 2014. Sahar Speaks is partnered with the British And Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group (BAAG) and has received seed funding from the UK’s Kestrelman Trust. We aim to change the paradigm that has contributed to the marginalisation of women’s voices in Afghanistan, using the Sahar Speaks model in other parts of the country as well as the region. 

“Female journalists can shed light on dark corners where men can’t.” Afghan MP Shukria Barakzai in an interview with Sahar Speaks.

To get in touch, and to arrange interviews: and on Twitter: @Sahar_Speaks 

The Sahar Speaks Training Caravan set to roll off to Kabul

By Lisa Essex, Trainer for Sahar Speaks

It started with a late-night discussion via social media.

Amie Ferris-Rotman, founder of Sahar Speaks, and also one of the smartest, most interesting reporters whom I have ever trained, messaged me about her plans to launch a training programme for female Afghan journalists. 

I’ve known Amie since she was a graduate trainee at Reuters, where I taught her the bread-and-butter skills of international journalism – from reading a balance sheet, to avoiding sexual harassment.

Over the years we’ve chatted during our various assignments around the world. I, usually from somewhere in former Yugoslavia. She, from places like Moscow or Kabul. We carried on talking after I left Reuters, and I turned increasingly to working in the developing world with young journalists. 

So when Amie, as a Stanford Knight Journalism Fellow and full of plans to give Afghan women the training they deserve, asked me for my thoughts, I had many to offer. I’ve delivered training in more than 20 countries, mainly for Non-Governmental Organisations, and seen the disparity between what organisations offer and what local journalists actually need.

Specific skills, content, safety – the list of what the training would need to supply filled up the little message box as we went back and forth on Facebook chat.  A daunting amount to cram into one week.

“But you must have a female trainer,” I typed furiously to Amie, (thinking of a training course I’d seen on pregnancy and childbirth, taught exclusively by men!).

Amie agreed, but was concerned that the trainer needed to be resilient, and not just to the specific challenges of Kabul. No-one wants to babysit a trainer, whose teaching qualifications are good, but who can’t cope with a rat in the training room (I put a bucket over them), or who brings all their work on a flashdrive and finds there’s no electricity in the training venue (Top tip: bring hard copies of EVERYTHING and buy a roll of cheap wallpaper to use as a flip-chart)

“Someone who is gutsy and not afraid to go to Kabul,” typed Amie.

“I’m not gutsy. But if you find a donor, I will teach it for you,” I signed off, and headed to bed.

And here we are, two years later. With Sahar Speaks already making waves, and making a difference. The upcoming training in Kabul will bring together a group of Afghan women who are already on the journalism road, and who will get the practical training to help them finesse their chosen profession.  It’s going to be grueling (I know, I wrote the training course!), but let’s face it, you don’t become a female journalist in one of the worst countries on earth to be a woman unless you are used to hard work. And I promise there will be a lot of fun, too.

I always knew that one day, one of my journalism protégés would hire me. I’m so glad it was Amie.  And I’m so proud to be working for Sahar Speaks.

Lisa Essex is a British journalist and trainer, who lives in South Carolina, and heads up 4th Estate Media Training and Consultancy. She has two children, a long-suffering husband, and too many animals.  She wanders the developing world, spreading the Good News about journalism and relying heavily on the kindness of strangers.




Panelists announced for Sahar Speaks launch

Join us on 15 December at the Frontline Club in Paddington, London.

The evening will be moderated by Sahar Speaks founder Amie Ferris-Rotman and will include the follow speakers:

Lyse Doucet is BBC’s Chief International Correspondent. Lyse has reported from all around the world since joining the BBC in the ‘80s. In fact, she came back from Syria just this week. But perhaps she is most known for her work in Afghanistan. Lyse covered the Soviet withdrawal from the country in 1989 and the ensuing chaos that followed, is a longtime interviewer of former President Hamid Karzai and, in 2010, won the 2010 Peabody Award for her story on maternal mortality in Afghanistan.  

Heather Barr was a senior researcher on Afghanistan for Human Rights Watch from 2011 to 2014 and continues to work on Afghanistan in her current position as senior researcher on women's rights in Asia. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, she worked for the United Nations in Afghanistan and Burundi, and before that she was a prisoner's rights lawyer in New York City. She is a graduate of London School of Economics, and Columbia Law School

Najiba Feroz is an Afghan journalist working for the BBC. She studied political science, business and journalism in Kabul and London. She started working with TOLO TV in 2006 in Kabul and then joined the BBC Kabul bureau in 2010. She transferred to New Broadcasting House in November 2012. Now she is working as a Broadcast journalist with the BBC world service. She has worked both as a field journalist and presented the main news programs for the BBC Afghan radio. 

Peymana Assad is a trustee of the British Afghan Women's Society and works in Local Government in London. She has an MA in Conflict, Security and Development from Kings College London. Peymana has written columns for online outlets on the British-Afghan community and she was also the first of Afghan origin to stand in an election for the Labour Party in the UK. 

Jacqueline Housden is news editor for Huffington Post UK. She has previously worked as a journalist for Al Jazeera English, CNN and the BBC.