Student photography project
“My youngest sister coming from school. She loves studying and going to school every day.” In Dali’s community of Verdara, in rural Rajasthan, many families can’t afford to send every child to school, and must choose—often picking the boys. The fact that both Dali and her sister attend regularly shows that attitudes and economics are changing.
“My best friends in school.” WE conducted a girls’ empowerment workshop with Dali and the rest of the Grade 8 girls at Verdara Primary School. Twenty teenagers talked about the challenges facing girls in their region and around the world—access to education, household chores that have them missing class, and child marriage. With these additional challenges, they all agreed, it’s important for girls to support and celebrate each other.
“My friends in my class are my partners in crime.” Kusum is a Grade 8 student at Verdara Primary School, one of 10 girls selected from our girls’ empowerment workshop to take a camera on loan to capture a day in the life of girls in her community. The goal? To see the world through their eyes. Creating a shot list, the girls chatted excitedly about all the things they would capture: homework! cows! my teacher!
“My teacher gave me a ‘Very Very Good’ on my science project.” When you ask children here what they want to be when they grow up, many young girls say doctors or teachers, noting the lack of education and health care in their communities. They want to do well in science, they say, so that they can help others through medicine, or teach children who are poor. These are the most respected positions in their community, and the professions they know best.
Laundry hanging on the balcony, typically a chore for girls. Manisha took this photo of her balcony at the tail end of the region’s monsoon season. The lush green trees seen here will go brown in the winter dry season. In a few months, this view will look very different. Girls are also responsible for cooking, collecting water and caring for younger siblings.
“My mother cutting grass to bring back for the cattle. She will walk very far to get the grass.” Bhavna, 13, is Tribal, part of the region’s indigenous community that has been historically marginalized with poor land offerings and few employment prospects. Animal husbandry is a common source of income for Tribal families, dependent on the welfare of their livestock. Cattle are cherished. Often, it’s easier to take food to the cows than it is to walk the whole herd to the best grasses, so women and girls collect fodder from nearby fields.
“Growing fodder for the cattle.” Nirma, 13, filled her camera with shots of the fields surrounding her house, and her trip to collect grass for her cows.
“My house cat, sitting.” Cats are much more common in India than dogs, due to space constraints in smaller homes. Cats are also more independent, and roam free much of the day, only coming back for scraps. Sangeeta, 14, also took shots of her human family, who had a large gathering to celebrate the holiday from school and work.
“My buffalo drinking.”
“Newborn buffalo calf, the newest member of my family.” Livestock are such an integral part of life and livelihoods here that Dali counted this the youngest member of her family.
“My friend taking her buffalo for grazing.”
“My mother. I love her the most.” After a discussion about famous Indian women in history, the girls were asked about the women in their own lives. Many of the girls named their mothers as role models.
“My favourite uncle.”
“My younger brother.”
“My grandfather and his friend smoking chilam . When there is no work in the farm, they sit together and talk about politics and people.”
“Communal gathering where all the men gather at one place and cook food for everyone.” The girls’ workshop was held the day before a school holiday, midway through Ganesh Chaturthi, a 10-day festival for the Hindu god of good luck. That evening, Sangeeta captured the celebration at home.
“My mom and her best friend. They hang out together.” Priyanka, 14, came into the girls’ workshop like a typical teenager—over it before it began. After the first icebreaker game, which had the girls choosing their favourite foods and Bollywood stars, she loosened up. The next day, Priyanka handed in some beautiful portraits of her family and home life.
“My neighbour going home after washing clothes.” Without washing machines at home, women will take buckets of clothes to the river and beat the stains out of them. Once clean, they might lay the clothes out flat on riverbed rocks, warm from the sun. Or they might carry a bucket of wet clothes back home to hang on laundry lines.
“My sister fetching water for cleaning the dishes. This is one of the chores me and my sister have to do at home.”
“My younger brother drinking water from the hand pump.” Access to clean water in Rajasthan is a challenge. Being a desert state, there’s little groundwater and, outside of monsoon season, almost no rain. WE Villages installs hand pumps, like these, as part of our clean water projects. Hand pumps are centrally located on school campuses to ensure equal access for surrounding residents.
“My neighbour fetching water from the well and kids playing in the background.”
“This is a traditional well, a rahat (Persian Wheel). This is where I get my water.”
“My sister cleaning the dishes.”
“My younger siblings.”
“My brother sitting at my house doorstep.”
“Me plucking grass for my cattle.”
“My friend carrying fodder for cattle. Usually, me and her go together to get fodder.” Walking to get water or cattle feed, girls often travel together to make the journey safer.
Stone statues outside Sangeeta’s home.
“The little one in the picture is my youngest cousin and he’s also the youngest member in my family.” Multigenerational households are the norm. Often, children will introduce themselves by talking about how many people live at their home, taking care to mention the eldest and youngest members to give a sense of their family dynamics.
“My older brother at home.”
“My bicycle, which I take to school every day.”