Communities are seldom given a platform to document and share their own stories. Their experience and perspectives as beneficiaries of our intervention may go unheard, as a result.
Amref Health Africa in Ethiopia recently hosted a photo exhibition and experience sharing forum, which offered community members it works with avenue to tell their own stories, depicting the benefits they have gained from its water, sanitation and hygiene interventions in Addis Ababa.
Members of the communities were given training in basic photography and equipped with the skills of writing accompanying stories for their photos, enabling them to capture their stories of change in a compelling way.
In the presence of government officials and non-government partners, school children, community members and solid waste collectors from Amref project sites exhibited their photos through which they demonstrated what they perceived to be challenges and crucial impact shown after Amref Health Africa in collaboration with government partners supported and empowered them.
The exhibition featured photos taken by beneficiaries themselves highlighting the challenges they face in day-to-day lives to access to water, toilet and shower facilities and the positive changes happening after Amref Health Africa constructed new facilities for them.
The show opened with a compelling story presented by Eyerusalem Ashagre, a sixth grade school girl, who spoke of the challenges she and her school-mates, girls in particular, would face in accessing toilet in the school, and the change felt after Amref Health Africa spotted the problem and constructed a new sanitation facility for girls only.
“In the past, there was no girls-friendly toilet in our school. We shared the same toilet with boys. It was not easy for us to go to the toilet as we were teased by boys; we felt like our privacy was always compromised. To top it all there were only two water points shared by all students. Washing our hands regularly was a luxury. We have now a clean and girls-friendly toilet with hand washing facilities in our school,” Eyerusalem said.
Through showing moments of their lives struggling to access to toilet and shower room, community members depicted the shame and fear they were undergoing while they used toilet in the bushes. The struggle of members of solid waste collecting groups in sorting out the waste Addis Ababa residents dispose everyday was among the stories shared through engaging photos.
The stories shared visually collectively pointed out what having access to good sanitation facility in the school and close to home means to health and wellbeing of the communities.
The photography exhibition, which incorporated beneficiaries’ perspectives and testimonies on the support Amref Health Africa provided, offered a networking and partnership opportunity to generate collaboration and widen impacts. With funding from Comic Relief, the training, the photo-taking and storytelling journey has also helped participant community members develop skills and engagement as they explore and share their stories with powerful images.
By placing greater value for the voices of the communities and giving the platform to speak for themselves, Amref Health Africa engages and empowers communities to participate in change and improving their own lives.