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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.