Girls with Cameras: Captured & Framed!

Thursday 3 November 2016

“I want to be a journalist,” said Kamala, eyes shining, “I want to take pictures of all the bad things happening in our village, and also highlight the positive aspects.”

It was the end of a two-day workshop on photography in Achham, a remote district in Nepal. The 18 girls assembled in the room were sharing their dreams and ambitions. When they first arrived at the workshop, most participants were unsure of what to expect, and quite hesitant to express themselves. After two days of learning the basics and going out in the field to shoot, the teenagers were raring to use the cameras and capture the best that came their way! They even put up a mini photo exhibition, complete with captions and stories.

The workshop, titled ‘Girls with Cameras’ was held in four districts: Saptari, Kapilvastu, Bajura and Achham, to help 78 girls and young women acquire new skills, build confidence, and look at the world through their unique lens; documenting life as it happens in this part of Nepal.

The workshop is part of the ‘Every Last Child’ campaign, which focuses on creating a noteworthy change in the lives of girls and young women in Nepal. The campaign in Nepal focuses on girls and young women from 13 to 18 years of age, with the aim to ensure that they have access to quality education, health services and protection. Under the campaign and in an effort to enhance their skill set, we are using photography to help them view the world from a creative and critical perspective.

The plan worked – the girls now look forward to documenting child-led activities happening in their region. The girls with cameras will also train members from their child clubs, and will be supported to hold exhibitions in their respective Village Development Committees (VDCs), where many residents have never even held a camera.

In fact, that was what 16-year-old Sanju said in Saptari district. “I have never used a camera in my life,” she explained, in her community, girls are restricted from participating in any community level activities.

A little further west, 17-year-old Neelam from Kapilvastu echoed the sentiments, “I loved learning to tell stories through a photo and writing captions.” When she returns to her village she plans to capture issues of child marriage in her community through photos.

The workshops, which ran from 9 September to 17 September 2016, were also our effort to highlight the issues of girls and young women in the four campaign districts. These girls ended up doing just that – by taking pictures of things close to their hearts. One participant shot pictures of a chhaugoth, a shed where menstruating girls and women stay each month. Another participant thought of depicting issues of child labor in the district headquarters, while a third looked for children playing and enjoying their lives. Landscapes, portrait, sports, nature, daily life – our participants presented such an interesting overview of their daily lives!

As an appreciation of the girls’ hard work and the unique workshop, a selection of the photographs from our Accham participants were published in the center spread of The Week and the Friday supplement of Republica (a national English broadsheet). In the coming months and years, the ‘Every Last Child’ campaign will continue to develop its creative media project, offering girls and young women the chance to help us understand their challenges and triumphs, concerns and achievements- from a female perspective.

By Richa Bhattarai and Vinita Thapa