The world is her oyster

2011-07-16 09:16

In her mid-thirties Isha Sesay has reached heights that some people can only dream of. She is among the youngest people on a list of the 100 most influential people in Africa published in the June edition of New African magazine.

“My mother was the first to call me and tell me about my inclusion on the list and then a friend also called,” she says excitedly.

“I was shell-shocked. You know you are doing what you are supposed to do – shining the light on stories that give people hope. Once it had sunk in I was humbled and felt a huge responsibility not to let down the people who had shown so much confidence in me.”

Sesay says she is not a feminist.

“I am a champion of women and girl empowerment,” she says.

“I would like to see us create an environment that gives girls more access to education . We must fight against the persecution of women, make the world a safe place for women.”

Sesay, who was in South Africa at the same time as US First Lady Michelle Obama, echoes the message contained in Obama’s speech at Regina Mundi in Soweto.

“She came with an important message that African women must not allow any boundaries to hold them back,” she says.

She believes the CNN Multichoice African Journalist Awards are proof that the American television network is committed to the growth of journalism in Africa.

She says that CNN has stuck with the event for 16 years and that the number of entrants has grown show how important it is to the organisation and to Africa.

One of the most memorable stories she has covered in ­Africa was the 2010 World Cup.

“My ‘wow moment’ was when I walked on the bridge connecting the media centre and the stadium to mingle with the fans,” she says.

“Seeing people wrapped in South African and Bafana Bafana flags you knew that this was the moment. There was no tension among spectators of all colours, just one South Africa.”

Born of Sierra Leonean parents in the UK in 1976, Sesay has a BA honours degree in English from Trinity College, Cambridge ­University.

After graduating she began her television career as a researcher for a BBC talk show.

In 1998 she moved to Glasgow to work for BBC Scotland and after a period behind the camera got her first job as a TV
presenter on BBC Choice. She went on to present a variety of programmes for the BBC, ITV, and TWI before joining Sky as a sports presenter for Good ­Morning Sports Fans in March 2002.

Her big move to CNN came in November 2005 when she moved from UK broadcaster ITN, where she anchored ITV’s early morning news as well as news bulletins for the breakfast programme, GMTV.

She says her role model is her mother, Dr Kadiatu Sesay – popularly known as Kadi Sesay – a former Sierra Leonean minister of trade and industry.

“My father died when I was 12 and my mother was 39. She brought up three children all by herself,” she reminisces.

“She was such a good example as she taught us the importance of education. She insisted that we always push ourselves and that there were no boundaries. She is my first, middle and last role model.”

Isha’s dream is to see more ­women getting an education and occupying prominent positions in government.

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