Lead with your mind

Our Troubling Power Essay Competition

Essay Competition
Illustration by Judy Seidman

To celebrate our 40th Anniversary we are offering a quarterly essay competition to our scholars and alumni with four prizes (one per quarter) of R2500. Winning essays as well as a selection of the strongest essays will appear in the Mail and Guardian’s online blog “Thought Leader” and be published in print a special supplement at the end of 2021 to mark our 40th Anniversary.

Submit your essay in a Word Document or a PDF by 31 May 11:59pm to Catherine Sofianos: catherine@canoncollins.org.uk

Accompanying your essay should be your name, a profile photo and a short bio of two to three sentences.

Essay Criteria

The winning essays demonstrate thought leadership, showing a grasp of the subject and its most recent discoveries and developments. It needs to show relevance by being applied to a situation in any part of southern Africa. It needs to reveal something – whether it is a new insight, a new approach to analysis that brings new light to a subject, an unexplored topic, or an unreported incident that is noteworthy and that the public deserve to be made aware off.

We would suggest your tone is friendly rather than formal. What the M&G like to say is imagine you are explaining this to a friend.

Some guidelines:

  1. The work must be exclusive and not published elsewhere;
  2. Please keep your article to between 800 and 1500 words (exceptions can be made if justified);
  3. No footnotes. Please use hyperlinks to articles/evidence that back up statements made;
  4. Please don’t use capital letters except where they are necessary (proper nouns and the beginning of sentences);
  5. Please write out acronyms in full the first time they are used;
  6. No bigotry will be tolerated; and
  7. Please remember that this is an opinion and not an advertisement of a company or product. It is also not a thesis, so please bear in mind our readers when using academic language.

More details on contributor guidelines can be found here.

As we do not have time to edit your work please make sure that your essay is proofread and clean of any grammar and punctuation errors.

A selection of the strongest essays developed for the Essay Writing Competition that will run quarterly in 2021 will be published on the MG blog throughout the year and then compiled into a supplement at the end of the year.

The Troubling Power Essay Competition will be adjudicated by Pippa Green, Elinor Sisulu and Leizl Eykelhof.


The themes and deadlines for each quarter are as follows: 

Deadline Themes
Quarter One 28 February
  • Educational Activism
  • Embodying resistance in the fight for equal rights and treatment.
  • Activism for Children’s Rights
  • Personal trauma in activism
Quarter Two 31 May
  • Legal Advocacy
  • Social Welfare, health activism and inclusion
  • Queer and Intersectional Activism
Quarter Three 31 August
  • Peace Making, Conflict Resolution and Passive Resistance
  • Feminist Advocacy
  • Radical Empathy/ Empathy in Activism
Quarter Four 30 October
  • Civic and Life Rights
  • Media Freedom
  • Torture and State Sponsored Brutality
  • Environment
  • Disability


Meet The Judges

Meet the Judges

Elinor Sisulu is Zimbabwean-born South African writer and human rights activist Elinor Sisulu combines training in history, English literature, development studies and feminist theory.

She has worked with many human rights organisation including Crisis Action, an international human rights organisation. She is the author of the award-winning children’s book The Day Gogo Went to Vote. Her biography on her parents-in-law, Walter and Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime secured her the prestigious 2003 Noma Award for publishing in Africa.

She is active in arts and literary organisation and is a board member of the National Arts Festival. In April 2016, Elinor was awarded an honorary PhD in recognition of her interdisciplinary work and commitment to social change.

Pippa Green is a South African journalist and writer who began her career in 1982 reporting on the trade union and anti-apartheid resistance movement for The Argus in Cape Town. Her work has been published widely in magazines and newspapers in South Africa and the United States. She has been a deputy editor of The Sunday Independent and Pretoria News, and Head of Radio News at the South African public broadcaster. She was a recipient of the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard in 1999, and was Ferris Visiting Professor of Journalism at Princeton University in 2006. Today she is the Press Ombudsman at the Press Council of South Africa.

Leizl Eykelhof is Thought Leader editor for the Mail and Guardian. She brings 20 years of experience in the media industry. She was editor of ReadRight magazine, the Sunday Times’ award-winning publication for children, was one of the founding members of the Nal’ibali reading for enjoyment campaign and was editor of News for Kids, a newspaper for children in Soweto. It is through this work that she was able to combine her skills with her inspiration for social development and transformation.