KABUL, Afghanistan —New voices are emerging in Afghanistan, originating from the cameras of young women in the Bamiyan Valley.
The participants are students of the Young Women’s Photography Initiative (YWPI), Imagine Asia’s program to increase learning among female Afghanis. Increasing girls’ access to education is especially vital in Afghanistan, where females make up only 18 percent of the upper-level student population and 85 percent of women remain uneducated and illiterate.
“You cannot succeed when you make it impossible for half your population to contribute and thrive,” said high-profile photographer Annie Griffith to National Geographic’s Speakers Bureau.
Educating girls is a known factor in improving quality of life. In Afghanistan it could reduce several of the country’s issues, such as poverty, infant mortality, life expectancy, child marriages, prostitution and self-immolation.
Imagine Asia “work[s]with local community leaders and regional NGO’s to help provide educational resources and opportunities to children in Afghanistan.” Already, Imagine Asia has funded two schools for girls, Patewqul and Wozdarghoon, through the Ministry of Education in Kabul.
But how does giving a girl a camera help her avoid poverty?
First, and most importantly, the Young Women’s Photography Initiative, directed by Bonnie McCurry V’Soske, provides girls with an education. Through the program, girls attend English, photography and computer classes, all of which equip them with useful life skills. Educated women are less likely to marry young or be left desolate at their husbands’ deaths.
Each year of secondary school increases a girl’s earning potential by 15 to 25 percent, according to Girls Not Brides.
Secondly, by photographing everyday life, girls gain a new perspective and appreciation for their culture. They take pictures of relatives, chores, nature, conflict, industry and survival and see that their culture is resilient. Becoming involved in their environment teaches girls about the world around them and helps them find their own voice. They gain a sense of empowerment, as well as preparation for adulthood.
“Photography is one of the ways to show or reflect the realities of our community to others,” said Marzia, a YWPI student, on the website.
“It encourages me to search and find new and real things in my community,” added Naderah, one of her peers.
Girls who are empowered and educated are invaluable to their communities and countries. Being primary caretakers and agriculturalists, women can use their knowledge to increase the quality of life in their areas.
“Even when we view them [women]as victims, they are in fact heroes and survivors,” Griffith said in her address.
Imagine Asia continues to support education for girls. With the help of donors, it uses programs like YWPI to keep women and their families above the poverty line.
Sources: Imagine Asia 1, Imagine Asia 2, Girls Not Brides, Imagine Asia 3, Annie Griffiths, Trust in Education
Photo: Imagine Asia