Today, ActionAid has launched a unique photographic campaign called Women by Women, that elevates the underrepresented stories and voices of women and girls.
Women by Women is a year-long campaign where the charity has committed to commissioning exclusively female photographers to tell the stories of women and girls living and working in the communities in the countries where they live. It will span across the countries in which the women’s rights charity works, from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa to Vietnam, Bangladesh and Brazil.
Through this campaign, ActionAid wishes to champion not only the empowering stories of women and girls, but also the incredible talent of women photographers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The charity wants to ensure that its visual storytellers are as diverse as the communities they are representing.
Bette Lynch, Visual Content Lead on ActionAid’s Women by Women campaign, said: “In 2018, less than a quarter of photos published in major media outlets were taken by female photojournalists.
Women by Women aims to subvert this by showing how important it is to include other perspectives; female as well as male; local as well as international — how different the world looks. The photographers we commission will be immersed in the lives and homes of the subjects they are portraying, showing the realities of daily life for the women and girls so often overlooked and disenfranchised.
They will celebrate the strength and determination of these unseen heroes fighting for their rights; holding up their communities; wanting their voices to be heard and making a profound impact on the world.”
Putting this power in the hands of local female photographers, the series starts with Kabul, Afghanistan with a kickboxer, parliamentarian, street artist, yoga teacher, fashion designer and drug counsellor who are all breaking down gender barriers and shattering stereotypes in different ways, in one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women.
Tahmina Saleem was commissioned in Afghanistan for the launch series of the campaign. She has a master’s degree in visual art and was taught by the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Massoud Hossaini. She said: “Being a woman photographer is a very big challenge in Afghanistan. If men see you with a camera, they are shocked; they think ‘how can a woman be doing photography?’ It’s difficult but we do it for ourselves and we do not give up.”
The struggles Tahmina describes are mirrored by the women in the photos. Laila Haidari, who runs the only private drug rehabilitation centre of the city, was married to a man much older than her when she was just 12 years old and had to study in secret. Once she managed to get divorced, she got a job running a restaurant and shoe shop in order to fund her aspiration to help drug addicts.
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Notes to editors:
1. ActionAid is an international charity that works with women and girls living in poverty
2. Statistic referenced in quote ‘less than a quarter of photos published in major media outlets were taken by female photojournalists in 2018’ was generated using data produced by Women Photograph