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Somalia, August 2015: Photographs by Somali children provide unique insight into their priorities

© UNICEF Somalia/2015/Holt
Children take part in a photography workshop organised by UNICEF as part of the Book Fair in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

HARGEISA, Somaliland, August 2015 – UNICEF Somalia displayed a fascinating exhibition of photographs by children at the renowned 8th Hargeysa International Book Fair (HIBF) held in Somaliland from 1 – 6 August 2015.

The exhibition featured some of the photos taken as part of a UNICEF- supported project for children in which a professional photographer Kate Holt taught children how to take pictures and cameras were provided for the children to take snaps over the following weeks. The exhibition of 16 panels featured photos on themes such as family and friends, food, play and water. During the opening of the Book Fair on Saturday August 1 – the photo exhibition was viewed by artists, writers and scholars from all over Africa and beyond as well as Somaliland government officials, diplomats, journalists, school children and the general public.

Some 22 children and two teachers from two local primary schools were invited to the opening of the Book Fair as well as to a photography workshop on the following day to learn some basic photography skills. None of the children had ever taken a photograph before or held a camera. They were given cameras and given three hours training on how to take a series of photographs to create a story around the theme of "Space" to echo the theme of this year’s Bookfair. They then went outside to put their ideas into practice and took photographs on the theme – choosing aspects such as keeping their environment clean which included a series on goats eating rubbish and another on the poor state of the roads in the area.

Mohammed, one of the participants said that the theme and the workshop made him look at his environment with different eyes.

© Mohammed/2015 During the training Mohammed took these photographs illustrating the problem of rubbish strewn everywhere and being eaten by goats in Hargeisa. "I liked taking photographs.” He said. “I had never thought about
During the training Mohammed took these photographs illustrating the problem of rubbish strewn everywhere and being eaten by goats in Hargeisa.

"I liked taking photographs.” He said. “I had never thought about the space around me before or what I see everyday but when I had to photograph it I became more aware."

In the afternoon the children presented their photostories to the group. And their presentations were watched by a delegation from the United Nations which included the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Peter de Clercq, as well as OCHA Head of Office Somalia, Vincent Lelei, the Head of Mission IOM Somalia, Gerald Waite, the Deputy Representative UNHCR, Felicitas Nebril, and the Acting Head of Office for UNICEF in Somaliland, Liibaan Dahir.

At the end of the workshop the children were asked about their dreams for the future – and 15 of them said they wanted to be a photographer or an artist.

Hodan, one of the girls who took part in the workshop said: "I never knew that I wanted to be creative before; I have never had the opportunity to take photos and now I want to become a photographer or artist when I leave school."

Nearly 1000 Somali children took part in the UNICEF photoclub project in Hargeisa, Garowe (Puntland) and Mogadishu which ran from 2013 – 2014. Photographs from the project have been displayed at the European Parliament in Brussels, in Scotland, and in Mogadishu.

UNICEF Somalia Representative Steven Lauwerier pointed out that one of the provisions of the Convention on the Right of the Child, which was ratified by Somalia in January this year, is that children should have the right to freedom of expression in any media.

“UNICEF is committed to ensuring that Somali children are at the centre of any discussions about their future and that they have a say in what happens in their country,” said Mr Lauwerier. “This exhibition of their wonderful photographs is one way to allow them to express themselves.”

The children’s photographs are expected to go on display in Nairobi and London before the end of the year.



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