Friday, 25 July 2014

Photovoice - using photography to advocate for gainful educational attainment for girls in northern Nigeria

By Badriyya Yusuf, 2nd Year MDP student

I am undergoing my practicum with the Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative (IWEI), a local NGO in Kano State, northern Nigeria. We are collaborating on the organization's Safe Space Clubs program which is an intervention designed to retain the girl-child in school - at least, up to grade SS3 (equivalent to grade 12). The program entails providing 98 secondary school girls in different rural areas with a forum in which to meet  and discuss their challenges and opportunities. Training is provided on human rights advocacy and issues such as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), maternal and child health and nutrition are also introduced.

For my practicum, we decided to focus specifically on using Photovoice as a research method. Photovoice is a form of participatory action research which involves community building and dialogue through photography (Wang, 2006). Fifteen schoolgirls aged between 13-16 from three different rural areas were selected as participants in a 10 week project. The objective is to enable them to take pictures using digital cameras, of their perceptions of challenges and opportunities to gainful education and to advocate for their rights. Interestingly, none of them have ever held a camera before - really! There has been much enthusiasm, particularly on the workshop session when they were introduced to cameras. Who'd have known that a zoom lens could be such a fascination!! 
Badriyya (2nd from R) explaining Photovoice to participants

Our first few sessions of the project were centered around orienting the students to its specifics, and the rules of Photovoice - informed consent of the person to be photographed, how to use and care for a camera, time frames and expectations etc.

We've received overwhelming support from the community as all duty bearers and stakeholders were involved in the process - all but 2 of the girls have been attending workshop sessions. We found out that the absentees were denied participation by their brother. In a patriarchal society such as mine, this is unfortunately, not unusual. The unquestioned ability of a male figure to dictate the livelihood of a female child, sibling or spouse was among the main obstacles to education identified by the girls during our focus group discussions. This is evidenced by the high rates of early marriages in the region where 48% of girls are married by the age of 15 ( For many of the girls, the pursuit of education dies when they get married.

As it stands at the moment, the girls have been given full possession of the cameras for the next few days. I eagerly await the pictures our rookies will produce.

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