Amina Mohamed, founded Cameras For Girls to change the lives of girls and women in Uganda, through the power of photography.
As a part of our initiative to keep the girls and young women in our Cameras For Girls program moving forward, I am interviewing photographers, photojournalists and documentary photographers worldwide to gather different perspectives on what motivates them in their work. Since Cameras For Girls started our journey in Uganda, I thought I would start the series off by interviewing notable Ugandan photojournalist Esther Ruth Mbabazi
Samantha Byakutaga is a 25-year-old young woman who graduated from Uganda Christian University with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications Degree and a major in journalism. She was working on a contract position at Success Africa as a media and communications fellow. She has recently gotten a full-time position with the same company, which is outstanding as the country has suffered a tremendous blow from COVID, with many of the citizens suffering from unemployment.
Sharon Countrygal Kyatusiimire was in the first training we held in Kampala in August 2018 and has collaborated with a few of the other students to design an organization called the She Voice. Their goal is to give females across Africa a voice to tell the stories otherwise not heard. Not only will it give her a voice in the heavily male-dominated journalism industry, but it will do the same for other girls as well.
When I set out to change the lives of females in my home country, Uganda, using the power of photography, I never envisioned that we would be here three years later, after many setbacks. Being a solo founder and running this day-in and day-out gets lonely and sometimes overwhelming. But knowing the lives, I can impact in the developing world makes me work harder each day. What does it mean for a small organization to hit official status? Mainly that we can now issue tax receipts for donations.
I took to sharing our charitable work online through various channels and also wanted to speak with my donors through pre-arranged online coffee dates (thank you Zoom) about what was working and what was not. I wanted to ensure that the communication we were putting out was clear and reached the hearts of our donors. Authentically connecting with my donors has meant everything to me. The fact that these people who have their own daily struggles take the time to talk and share with me is incredible.
With the work we are doing in Uganda, the hope is to change lives. By teaching photography and business skills to these young women, they can get paid work, earn an income, support themselves, their families, and their immediate communities.
d don’t know how to use one. We were fortunate to be working with Youth Arts Movement Uganda out of their facility in Kampala.
Joanita Nakatte is proof positive that our Cameras For Girls training works. Joanita attended our first Cameras For Girls 3-day workshop in Kampala in August 2018. She and 14 other young females gathered together in a rudimentary classroom to partake in our photography workshop, targeted towards females endeavouring to become journalists.
We conduct an initial 3-day workshop in Kampala, Uganda with 15 young women. After I return back to Canada, I then conduct the full curriculum online, using bi-weekly zoom calls, video training, one-on-one feedback, monthly assignments and communication and assistance through a private Whatsapp and Facebook group.
Empowering females is crucial in a world that stills struggles with gender inequality. Empowering our female students with photography and business skills enables her to fight for her rights for a job and be paid as equally as possible to her male counterpart. The pay gap amounts to a 17% difference, which tells us there is still much work to do in this area.
Cameras For Girls believes in empowering females through photography. We believe in equipping marginalized females in the developing world with photography and business skills. We give her a camera to keep and teach her how to use it to tell stories that matter to her. But we don’t stop there. We also teach her business skills, to help her get a full-time job in the journalism sector – a sector that is mostly male-dominated.
The worldwide pandemic did a number on all businesses and organizations around the world. However, where it made a devastating impact was for the countless non-profit organizations, such as Cameras For Girls, who tirelessly work to make a difference for those they support.
I am proud to state that the pandemic might have affected our students and our work with Cameras For Girls. Still, it did not stop us nor them from pursuing our goals, which is to help females in the developing world fight for gender equality and alleviate poverty for themselves and their families.
When I ventured forth with Cameras For Girls, I knew that my philanthropic outreach could not be just as simple as providing photography training; it had to mean much more. It had to show the power of photography in changing one’s life.
One of the main reasons we started Cameras For Girls is to help girls in developing countries move past poverty, gender inequality, oppression, suppression, and sexual exploitation.
When I started my business Triple F Photo Tours, I knew I would take enthusiast and amateur photographers on a photo tour to Uganda. I knew I would be combining my passion for travel and photography, but I also wanted it to be about philanthropy and giving back to my home country of Uganda.
Giving a female a camera teaches her a valuable skill in seeing her world differently, and it also encourages her to tell stories that matter to her. In a society where the female voice is not heard or valued, this becomes her way to share her views and opinions objectively and be respected alongside her male peers.
I survive these days, remembering my first training that took place in August 2018. I first came up with the idea back in August 2017. At that time, I left a 15-year career in film and television and had embarked on a new career as a mortgage broker. I was a very successful mortgage broker, and I had even won a few awards, but I was not satisfied as the call of photography kept beckoning to me. However, I was not prepared to leave my well-paying job to just take photos for a living. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that, and in fact, I do that with my other business Amina Mohamed Photography. On a personal level, leaving a well-paying job had to mean I was changing lives through the power of photography.
There were many challenges and roadblocks on the road to fulfilling this dream of teaching photography to local girls studying to become journalists. For instance, I thought I had settled on a school to learn that the girls cannot always attend school because their families needed them at home to fetch water, take care of the younger children or work in the family homestead. Worse was the fact that many young girls are married off as soon as they hit puberty and never get to attend school. In many cases, the schools lacked electricity, so it would be challenging to teach, let alone have enough light for them to operate a camera.