Amina Mohamed, founded Cameras For Girls to change the lives of girls and women in Uganda, through the power of photography.
When you look at a photo of a female, what do you see?
Do you see power, gender equality, strength, diversity? In the developing world, not all females can confidently say they have any of these facets, because they unfortunately live in a world where the female voice is not considered to be important.
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.
Students participating in CFG workshop, Kampala, Uganda
Giving Females Access to Tools Can Change Their World
In this day of online viewing – flipping photo after photo on Instagram, it’s wonderful to see the diversity of photographers around the world, however, photography as a medium remains largely inaccessible to most of the developing world. How are we to change the voice of females if we don’t give them access to these tools? By giving females access to tools, like a camera, it can change their world.
Socio-economic and cultural barriers aside, there’s also the fact that many females don’t feel it’s their place to move beyond traditional roles that females have played for millennia our world. Unfortunately, that becomes more challenging, when parents don’t realize that they are holding their children, mostly daughters back from realizing their true potential for fear of breaking societal norms and or what they learned growing up in the developing world from their small communities. The cycle of poverty and gender inequality prevails when society cannot move past its own barriers.
With Cameras For Girls, we use photography not only to help girls and women get jobs but to transcend barriers for these females. We help them compete for jobs on their own merit and break down the stereotypical ideas around females in the workplace. We are now making a lasting and sustainable impact, starting with Uganda.
Patience Nakutenda looks on as Amina gives an editing tutorial
Giving The Voiceless Power Through Photography
What does it mean to be voiceless? It’s not a physical thing in this case, but a power struggle to be heard over the other voices that tell them repeatedly that they don’t matter, that their roles in society should be the traditional roles of wife, mother, and caregiver. That their goals and dreams of moving past gender stereotypes is not important.
At Cameras For Girls, we have 3 prime mandates we follow, which included gender equality, female empowerment, and alleviation of poverty.
Fighting for Gender Equality
In Uganda, female journalists are required to own a camera and know how to use it, before they will be hired and/or paid. Their male counterparts are not required to have the same. Furthermore, females are paid on average 17% less than their male counterparts. In a society, where many females are single mothers, how can they afford to pay for rent, clothing, and food for themselves and their children.
By challenging gender stereotypes, we can show our girls the power of their voices, through photography.
For instance, Sharon Kyatusiimire, is developing a website called The She Voice. She realized early on the barriers she faced in finding paid work, and wants to alleviate that struggle for other females in Uganda.
Advocating for Female Empowerment
“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”
– Coco Chanel.
At Cameras For Girls we advocate for female empowerment. When a female has a voice, and the power to choose the life she wants for herself, she can not only change her life but she can do so for her family and community at large.
Joanita Nakatte is a great example of this. When she took our training in August 2017, Joanita had a job but was struggling to get paid and/or published, simply because she lacked the tools of a camera and the knowledge of how to use it.
After our training, she did not wait for an opportunity, but took it head on. She went directly to her editor the day after we completed our training and showed him that she now owned a camera and that she could also take great photos to accompany her articles. He immediately put her on payroll. Last year, when the roof caved in on the family home, she was able to fix it. She recently traded in the camera we gave her for a bigger camera, and she feels empowered because she took the training and the skills and used them to carve out the life she wants.
Photo of a student practicing her photography in Cameras For Girls workshop @Amina Mohamed Photography
Addressing Poverty Alleviation
Watching people struggle for the necessities of life is heart-wrenching and nowhere is this more true than in the developing world. Worse, when societies don’t foster equality and/or support the goals and dreams of females, they must turn to other means to support themselves.
According to UN Women:
- Gender inequality is a major cause and effect of hunger and poverty: it is estimated that 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls
- On average, women make up about 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. Evidence indicates that if these women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent, raising total agricultural output in these countries by 2.5 to 4 percent. This would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by around 12 to 17 percent.
- Almost 70 percent of employed women in South Asia work in agriculture, as do more than 60 percent of employed women in sub-Saharan Africa. This highlights the importance of developing policies and programmes that address their needs, interests and constraints.
- Less than 20 percent of the world’s landholders are women. Women represent fewer than 5 percent of all agricultural landholders in North Africa and West Asia, while in sub-Saharan Africa they make up an average of 15 percent.
- Women in sub-Saharan Africa collectively spend about 40 billion hours a year collecting water. Per week, women in Guinea collect water for 5.7 hours, compared to 2.3 hours for men; in Sierra Leone women spend 7.3 compared to 4.5 hours for men; and in Malawi this figure is 9.1 compared to 1.1 hours. This significantly impacts women’s employment opportunities.
- Research indicates that when more income is put into the hands of women, child nutrition, health and education improves.
With these statistics, it can be daunting in how to solve the problem. While we are not solving poverty, we are helping to alleviate it one female at a time, through our photography and business skills training.
Prior to COVID we completed two trainings in Uganda, followed by a year-long training online. Unfortunately, COVID impacted our in-person training from 2020 onwards, however we keep striving to make a difference. Out of the 32 girls, who have taken our training, 11 now have full-time jobs. That’s 11 females, making a difference for themselves, their families and their communities.
We are working hard on our programming and will be expanding to other regions. While Uganda is a great case for what we have accomplished so far, we hope to impact the lives of more females in the developing world through our photography and business skills training.