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Empowering marginalized children through photography in Mali

© UNICEF Mali/2011/Dembelé
Maladon Keita, 10, reviews images with Eye See youth photo workshop facilitator Giacomo Pirozzi in the Bamako neighbourhood of Hamadallaye in Mali.

‘The State of the World’s Children 2011 – Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity,’ UNICEF’s new flagship report, focuses on the development and rights of more than a billion children aged 10 to 19 worldwide. This series of stories, essays and multimedia features seeks to accelerate and elevate adolescents’ fight against poverty, inequality and gender discrimination. Here is one of the stories.

By Raquel Wilson-Sow

BAMAKO, Mali, 28 April 2011 – Hawa Coulibaly, 16, has spent the last nine months training to become a tailor, but she is also interested in photography.  “By the end of the training, I hope I will know how to take pictures of my designs,” she says on the first day of the Eye See workshop.

Global initiative

Ms. Coulibaly is one of 21 young people – aged between 10 and 18 – who participated in a five-day youth photo workshop held this month in Mali’s capital, Bamako. Led by international photographer Giacomo Pirozzi, the session was the seventh in the Eye See series, a global initiative that originated as an outlet for youth affected by the 2005 Pakistan earthquake.

Eye See in Mali is made possible by a partnership between UNICEF and Sony Corporation. The project is facilitated by the Japan Committee for UNICEF, and implemented by local partners Association of Child and Youth Workers (AEJT) and Centre for the Promotion of Training in Photography (CFP).

“It is our pleasure to provide tools and opportunities for the next generation,” said Hidemi Tomita, General Manager of Sony’s Corporate Social Responsibility Department.  “This year, we will have a series of workshops in Mali and we are happy that this excitement will multiply among children.”

Taking place at CFP, the training introduced ten girls and ten boys to photography while strengthening their social skills and offering a safe space for them to learn about their rights. Students were able to familiarize themselves with a camera, photography techniques and field reporting.

Giving children a voice

“In these workshops, students do not just learn how to use cameras, but how to tell stories and relate the scene to an audience,” said Mr. Pirozzi, who has conducted photographic workshops for youth in countries around the world. “They choose the themes and the locations. They are aware of what is going on in their communities.”

© UNICEF Mali/2011/Coulibaly
Salif, 11, works as a blacksmith at Marché de Medina Koura, in Bamako, Mali's capital. The photography workshop is a creative outlet away from children working in often toxic and dangerous conditions.

Workshop participants were chosen by local associations working with and for vulnerable children. In addition to AEJT, students were selected from the National Children's Parliament, Association for the Promotion of Child and Youth Communicators, Community Social Centres, Samu Social, Kanuya and Sigiya-ton.

Amadou Keita, 15, is an active delegate at the National Children’s Parliament.  He is focused on becoming an advocate for the protection of child rights. “I want to take photos that document how children’s rights are abused,” he said during the workshop.

The CFP will continue the participatory programme with a new group of students who will meet for two hours every Saturday through the end of year. This longer programme will touch on skills such as digital photography, news journalism, copyright and ownership, writing stories, producing images for exhibition and using social media.

‘Change agents’

“Photography is a way to give young people a voice and progressively allow them to be change agents in their families and their country,” said Marcel Rudasingwa, UNICEF Representative in Mali.

Two exhibitions of images from the workshops will be held in Mali. The first will open in conjunction with the Day of the African Child on 16 June. The second will tour Bamako as a mobile exhibit during the African Encounters Photography Biennial at the end of the year. Another exhibition is scheduled to be held in Tokyo.



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