During the portrait assignment, the girls went out into the community to photograph the villagers. A group of girls & one boy gathered around Teshfanesh, our 13-year-old student, while she photographed a teenage girl. Babita, our ED & photography teacher, mimed to add the boy from the gathered group into the portrait setting. The crowd of girls giggled as the girl & boy were photographed together. Afterwards, while back in the classroom to discuss the lesson, Teshfanesh picked the portrait of the girl & boy as her favorite. The norm in Ethiopian society is for men & women not to interact – not to walk or sit next to or talk to each other. Teshfanesh internalized this practice to mean she was not equal to boys. However, seeing an image of a girl standing next to a boy showed her that was not the case. It was possible for a female to stand side by side with a male & that they were equals.
In March 2017, we headed to the small village of Mudula in Ethiopia. Partnering with WEEMA International, we held a 10-day workshop with girls & boys in 6th & 7th grades at Saruma Primary & Middle School. In the first week, we taught the girls. In the second week, the girls took their new found photography & presentation skills to teach their fellow male classmates. They also taught 3 adult males – a daunting, yet self-affirming task.
Through discussions about gender equality, and exercises in self-confidence & leadership skills, our students–both girls & boys–understood their self-worth & how they could be agents of change within their own communities.
“I used to have low self esteem, but not anymore.” – Genet, 12
The film of our students learning & teaching photography is coming soon, along with the images they took during the workshop. Stay tuned!