Empowering child justice through photography

The young photographers practice their photography skills while taking shots of children playing in the village.
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Giacomo Pirozzi

By Lulutani Tembo, UNICEF Malawi

With the Agenda 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) being a vital part of the work of UN agencies, fostering SDGs engagement, awareness and advocacy is essential to show the progress that is being made to towards achieving Agenda 2030 in Malawi. During this year’s SDG fair at Mtsiliza Primary School in Lilongwe, UNICEF chose to focus on SDG 1 of No Poverty and SDG 16 of Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions by displaying photographs taken by children from the Chirwa Reformatory Centre in Zomba.

These photographs were taken during a photography workshop that UNICEF Malawi hosted for 20 children from the reformatory centre. UNICEF worked with Giacomo Pirozzi, a professional photographer from Italy who led the photography training during the workshop. The workshop offered the children an opportunity to express themselves through images and learn a skill they never thought they had. Their ages ranged from 14–17 years and with the exception of one child, all of the children never held a camera or even took a photograph using a mobile phone. During the five day training, the children learned about composition, lighting techniques and key information to take quality photographs. Most importantly, the children learned how to tell a story through a photograph, giving life to the idiom, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

Children in Namdidi village pose with professional photographer Giacomo Pirozzi, who was the photography trainer during the 5 day workshop. 
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Chisomo

The children were empowered through the photography workshop as they were able to connect with communities and tell stories of the persons they met, highlighting issues such as poverty which many Malawians face. The situations captured in these photographs and the stories behind them tell of the urgency required to address poverty (SDG 1) and the importance of building an inclusive Malawi for sustainable development with access to justice for all.

In Mtambo Village, a child adjusts her top, the state of the clothing is a symbol of the poverty this child experiences. 
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Elias

The young photographers went on a field trip, and divided themselves into 4 groups, with each group going to a different location to photograph subjects. One group visited a market while another walked around the town, another visited a village nearby and the fourth group visited artisans in an arts and craft market. It was a day of fun, excitement and putting into practice what they learned.

One of the groups of young photographers chose to photograph village life and captured light moments with children at play and having fun. Some of these children in the village were the same ages of the children taking the photographs and the children were happy to be the subjects of attention.

A boy smiles while holding a kitchen wall at Namadidi village, he was excited because after a long day of not eating, he saw his mom walking over to the house with food. 
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Isaac
Children play football with a ball made out of plastic bags outside a house at Namadidi village. Playing football is not only their entertainment but also part of physical exercise that helps build better bodies for children.
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Allan

The child photographers also tried to show what the life of many young Malawian girls entail. “There was one girl who was washing plates, even though she and her family did not eat”, asserted Chisomo who took the photograph below. “She said it was her responsibility to wash the plates every day and on this day when I visited, she was cleaning plates even though she and her family did not use them because they had no food,” he added.

A girl in Mtambo Village washing plates, the chores most Malawian girls do before and after school. 
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Chisomo
A young girl draws water from a borehole at Namadidi village. Drawing water for different uses in the home is a standard chore for many girls and women in Malawi. 
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Allan

In addition, the children took pictures that not only revealed the joy that the cameras brought to children in the villages, but also to show their cheerfulness despite the deprived circumstances they live in. “The children were very happy in this village”, said one of the photographers. They were happy to see the camera. One of them was wearing a pair of boots. It was his only pair of shoes.”

A boy in Namdidi Village puts on an oversized old shoe. Many children in rural Malawi do not have shoes due to high levels of poverty. 
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Isaac
Girls smile soon after receiving food aid in the village at Namadidi in Zomba. Provison of adequate and nutritious food is essential for every child’s developmet.
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Chisomo
An excited group of young boys and girls run towards the photographer at Namadidi village. 
 © UNICEF Malawi/2016/Allan

The photographers who went to town wanted to capture young men at work at an Arts and Craft market. “They were busy making craft. Some of them did not even remember that we were taking photographs of them because they were so busy with their work. This is how they make their money.”

Chikafa Masamba (19) year old craftsman making a hand amulet at his shop in Zomba. The young photographers photographed the craftsmen as he showed them how he earned a living. 
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Joseph

Another child photographer named Joseph, took a shot of carved monkeys who were blind, mute and deaf and related the photograph to promoting a better and unified Malawi. “I photographed this wood carving of three monkeys because it is an example of how Malawi should be. One monkey cannot hear. One cannot see and one cannot speak. In Malawi — if one cannot hear, one who can hear should help,” said Joseph. “If one cannot see, one who can see should help. If one cannot speak, the one who can speak should help. For Malawians to get better, we have to help each other,” he concluded.

The monkeys depict a blind, deaf and one with speech challenges. For them to progress in life, they should rely on each other by using each other’s strengths. 
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Joseph

At the end of the five-day workshop, the children selected their favourite images under the categories of “Best Image”, “Best Story” and “Best Attention to Detail”. They all expressed their joy and surprise that they were able to take the photographs in this exhibition. They returned to the reformatory centre with the cameras and promised to continue taking photographs. UNICEF will continue to follow up with these photographers and support them with equipment to store images and also with refresher training. The children left the workshop not only with their cameras and certificates of achievement but with confidence — seeing greater possibilities in their futures and carrying with them a renewed sense of hope.

This picture was nominated in the best story category. It is of a baby sleeping on her mother’s back in Mtambo Village. This is how women in Malawi and other parts of Africa carry their babies. 
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Joseph
An example of a best detail picture. A girl from Namadidi village carries a bag of maize received from World Food Programme which was part of the response to the hunger crisis that hit Malawi in 2015/2016. 
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Joseph

In Malawi, UNICEF partners with the Government in Nutrition; Health; HIV; Education; Child Protection; Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Social Protection. Moreover, the theme of UNICEF’s 70th anniversary — commemorated in 2016 — was For Every Child: HOPE. It is hope that the children from Chirwa discovered during the workshop — hope in a better tomorrow; A better future.

Children smile and laugh in Namadidi village in Zomba. 
© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Chisomo

Leave a Reply