In her 18 years in Africa, Mercedes Sayagues has survived stepping barefoot on a 10 cms-long scorpion in the Kalahari, being taken hostage by Unita in Kuito during Angola’s civil war and being expelled by Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe in 2001 for her reporting on human rights abuses.
She alternates years of freelancing with stable employment. In late 2008, she was the editor of an IPS series of stories on women and elections in Africa. Before, she was editor-in-chief of the Irin/PlusNews Portuguese service, from December 2005 until May 2008. PlusNews is a United Nations Web-based information service specializing in HIV and AIDS.
A Uruguayan-born journalist, Sayagues specializes in AIDS, gender, sexuality, health, humanitarian issues and human rights. She has written studies on the AIDS policies in Senegal and Uganda, and on investment in Mali, for the South African Institute for International Affairs at Wits University. She enjoys writing quirky personal columns in South Africa’s Mail&Guardian.
She is an experienced media trainer, having facilitated more than 20 courses for the NSJ in Maputo, Fojo (Sweden), Unicef and Unaids. She has produced two manuals on reporting on HIV/AIDS, one for Unesco/NSJ in 2001 and one for PlusNews in 2008.
Sayagues has an MA in Journalism from New York University.
She lives with her daughter, Esmeralda, in Pretoria, and roams Africa.