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Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, openDemocracy writer, shortlisted for Orwell Prize

Reporter who takes time to listen acutely to people at the sharp end of government policy is one of six shortlisted for political journalism prize.

George Orwell

Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, whose work exposes the impact of government policy on ordinary lives, has been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, one of journalism’s highest honours.

From hundreds of entries, the judges shortlisted 6 books, 6 journalists, and 6 pieces of social reporting to be considered for three Orwell Prizes.

Rebecca’s prize submission gives voice to single parents struggling to survive in Austerity Britain and to women incarcerated at Yarl’s Wood detention centre. The work investigates the mistreatment of insecure tenants and institutional racism within the mental health service.

Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi

“I’m pleased and honoured to be shortlisted," says Rebecca. “The subjects are difficult, but it’s joy to work on these stories because of the brilliant, brave people I get to write about. They feel the brunt of public policy and have plenty to say about it. It’s exciting to think that more readers will get to meet them.”

“This work takes time, she says, I meet them somewhere they feel comfortable. We meet over days, weeks, sometimes months. They tell their stories. I listen.

Rebecca’s work has been published by openDemocracy (with original illustrations by Patrick Koduah), Dominion of New York, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Washington Post, the New Internationalist, the Socialist Lawyer, the Independent, The Friend and more.  She also works part-time as writer in residence at  Lacuna  magazine. 

She is a Winston Churchill Travel Fellow, and spent her fellowship reporting on immigration and asylum in Greece, Italy, Spain, France and the UK.

Her first job in journalism was as a business journalist reporting on private finance initiatives for the Partnerships Bulletin magazine. 

Her reporting on immigration and asylum across the European Union was shortlisted for the 2012 George Orwell Prize for Political Writing (blog category) and the 2013 Speaking Together Media Award.  In 2012 Rebecca published Gardens, a collaboration with photographer Christina Theisen. The pamphlet illuminates the experiences of environmental activists in London fighting to save the city’s biodiversity, while tackling social inequality.

All three Orwell shortlists follow below. A new Orwell Youth Prize remains open to entries until Thursday 30 April 2015. Anyone aged 14 to 18 who is at school or college, from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales may apply.

The theme is: Exposing a lie. Young writers may be guided by George Orwells words from Why I Write:

When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

Patrick Koduah illustration for Omonira-Oyekanmi's "Rats in the lunchbox"

Orwell Prize Shortlists: 

(Click on the blue subheads for links to submissions )

Book Prize: 

  • Rana Dasgupta, CAPITAL: THE ERUPTION OF DELHI (Canongate)
  • Dan Davies, IN PLAIN SIGHT: THE LIFE AND LIES OF JIMMY SAVILE (Quercus)
  • Nick Davies, HACK ATTACK (Chatto & Windus)
  • David Kynaston, MODERNITY BRITAIN (Bloomsbury)
  • Louisa Lim, THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF AMNESIA (Oxford University Press)
  • James Meek, PRIVATE ISLAND: WHY BRITAIN NOW BELONGS TO SOMEONE ELSE (Verso)

Journalism Prize:

  • Rosie Blau, The Economist
  • Martin Chulov, The Guardian
  • Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, OpenDemocracy.net, Lacuna, New Statesman
  • Mary Riddell, The Daily Telegraph
  • Peter Ross, Scotland on Sunday
  • Kim Sengupta, The Independent

Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils: Supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

  • George Arbuthnott, Slaves in peril on the sea
  • Aditya Chakrabortty and Guardian team, London’s housing crisis
  • Alison Holt, Care of the elderly and vulnerable
  • Nick Mathiason, A great British housing crisis
  • Randeep Ramesh, Casino-style gambling
  • Mark Townsend, Serco: A hunt for the truth inside Yarl’s Wood

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