What better way to encourage social change and development than through art? Lensational, a global social enterprise, works to empower women in developing countries through digital photography.
It all started in Istanbul, in 2012, when Bonnie Chiu crossed paths with a stranger. The young girl she ran into asked if she could have a look at the camera Bonnie was carrying with her.
“She’d never had the chance to use a camera before. The sheer joy on her face as she learned how to use one inspired me,” says Bonnie.
Following the encounter, Bonnie established the foundations of Lensational along with three of her university classmates. Since then, the non-profit organisation has trained 150 women in Hong Kong, Myanmar, Pakistan, the US and the UK.
“Photography transcends geographical borders and is a universal language. It transcends illiteracy and this is especially important for women,” she says.
Of the world’s 774 million adults who still cannot read or write, 64 per cent are women. This restricts their access to information, education and public debate.
Bonnie explains that Lensational aims to work mainly with 13 to 15-year-old public school girls because it is a critical time of value formation. Through this, they hope to then reach out to their mothers.
“Photography would allow these women to overcome social isolation and earn extra income, alleviating economic dependence,” she says.
Lensational conducts photography workshops with the ultimate goal to raise global awareness of gender issues.
“Having attended an all-girls school for my primary and secondary education made me become more acute to the gendered nature of poverty and inequality,” says Bonnie. “Having relatives in Mainland China and Indonesia made me see how particularly acute gender inequality is in the developing world.”
Earlier this month, Lensational reached a crowd-funding goal that will enable them to equip 60 Pakistani women and their families with digital cameras and photography training.
“Wherever the need for women empowerment exists, that is wherever we will be.”
The project to equip women permanently in Pakistan was launched following Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize win for her education rights activism and her struggle against the suppression of women.
On December 16, the world was reminded that the fight isn’t over.