What I Learned When I Gave Women the Opportunity to Share Their Stories Through Participatory Photography

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What I Learned When I Gave Women the Opportunity to Share Their Stories Through Participatory Photography What I Learned When I Gave Women the Opportunity to Share Their Stories Through Participatory Photography
Culture

What I Learned When I Gave Women the Opportunity to Share Their Stories Through Participatory Photography

by Jen Gurecki

February 11, 2014

"This photo I took while I was looking for a job. Despite the difficulties as women we still have the hope for a bright future. The fact that there are difficulties, we cannot stop. This photo also shows that despite being women, we also have careers and can look for employment. It shows the double duty of woman that despite being there at home with household duties, you still have to look for work."

Common themes emerged from the narratives of the participants, but what I learned back then and what sticks with me today is that cookie cutter approaches to women’s empowerment are limited in their effectiveness because women are actually a diverse group of people. The women in Nicaragua told stories of extreme domestic violence—homes being burned down, fearing for their lives. The women in Kenya, on the other hand, spoke of an inability to earn a living; they had a burning desire to be able to financially provide for their families.

Ultimately I chose to focus my work in Kenya, founding the non-profit Zawadisha, which was designed to address the issues that emerged through the HerStory project. Today, as a PhD student and the Chief Innovation Officer for Zawadisha, I still pour over the research and look for data that reveals the most promising practices to alleviate poverty and empower women, but I haven’t forgotten what you can learn when you give people an opportunity to share their stories. Granted, it’s the most difficult thing to measure, but the richness and depth that is revealed through storytelling is unmatched by any survey, bar graph, or statistic.

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