Joy FMs Bampoh chats with CNN’s Isha Sessay on Ebola in Sierra Leone


Discrimination and stigmatisation for people Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia has been growing because of the devastating effects of the Ebola Virus. The World Health Organisation says the confirmed death toll is 4,818. But people from the three worst affected countries are not the only ones suffering stigmatization.

West Africans in the Diaspora who may not have even visited the African continent are also suffering name calling, indecent treatment and separation because the disease has been tagged an African problem.

Last month Joy News Editor Dzifa Bampoh had a chat with CNN Anchor and Sierra Leonean Journalist Isha Sessay about how the scourge of the Ebola virus has affected people in her home country.

 
IS: I am from Sierra Leone my family is in Sierra Leone right now going through this nightmare and they are seeing firsthand how their day to day lives have been torn into shreds. Ebola is real whether or not you contract the disease, it has an impact on you and your surroundings as well as your network. We have to create an atmosphere where people understand what is going on. But also have empathy for people who are going through it right now. We need to break this kind of us and them [situation].

DB: What kind of empathy are you asking for?

IS: I am asking for an understanding and a real appreciation of what people are going through and I am asking for an engagement on what people are going through. That comes down to governments but it also comes down to the media, we too have a role to play here.

DB: So far 3410 cases in SL, we know of 1200 deaths, I am told there are 627 survivors that is a story that is not being told. Can CNN [help] change the narrative?

IS: I think everyone has a responsibility to do more on the survivor story piece and you spoke rightly about the concern of Ghanaians it is partly the need to change the discourse and the narrative that people think that Ebola [is] automatically a death sentence. That needs to be changed. We know that if you get the supportive care and intervention early enough, people can survive. To CNN and every media house, there are people out there surviving we need to tell their stories and there are lessons to be learnt from those stories.

DS: [away from issues related to Ebola] I want to ask about your hair. You have had this look for many years…what is the secret?

IS: Stick with what works (laughter) I am not playing with it. Some people like to change their hair every week. If that works for you do it. I am too busy to be thinking about what is going on. I like to keep it simple

DB: You’ve been married for about a year now. This job is very gruelling for women. How are you coping?

IS:  True. It is. Expectations of us are different. You know we are working at home and you are coming home and you are doing laundry and then you are cooking. I mean it is …you know I have a great husband a very understanding husband but take for instance his expectation was that you know I would be home in a couple of days but now I am off on a completely different assignment. I [am not] sure when I am going to be back. He is a journalist himself so he understands that the story takes precedence. So he gets that but it’s not easy

DB: A lot of women who get married eventually take solace in the softer side of their mandate as journalists. How should they avoid that?

IS: You know what listen, everyone has to make their own decision [but] do they make that decision because that becomes their focus or interest? You know what, people have to follow their passions it is really not for me to judge those decisions. But I think it is very unlikely I’ll go down that road. I think we have to be accommodating and non judgemental of other women. We have enough pressure we put on ourselves. We have enough pressure that we put on ourselves internally without us judging other women. Do what you got to do sister.

DB: Any children on the horizon?
IS: Eh…you tell me (smiling)
DB: are you interested in children at all and having them?

IS: I am absolutely interested in having children.

DB: It is on the horizon may be?
IS: We’ll see what the future holds.
 
This interview was conducted three weeks ago in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania on the sidelines of the 19 th CNNMULTICHOICE African Journalist of the year award.

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