Able Voices

PhotoVoice partnered with Healthlink World Wide to give disabled communities across Africa and Asia a platform to voice their needs, concerns and experiences.

Caste Discrimination is one of the worst and most widespread human rights abuses existing today. It is India’s ‘Hidden Apartheid’.

2004 – 2012

Project Location:
Bangladesh, Cameroon, Albania

Project Managers:
Venetia Dearden, Clare Struthers

Kate Watson

Healthlink Worldwide

World Vision

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Project description:
PhotoVoice worked in partnership with Healthlink Worldwide to increase the influence of young grassroots disabled people over social policies, practices and public attitudes in Africa and Asia. Their disabilities ranged from physical difficulties (resulting from polio, rickets, road accidents and disabilities at birth), to learning difficulties, visual impairment and total blindness. The participants had not previously used a camera and few had a developed sense of visual literacy. Whilst each participant faces different challenges on a daily basis, the group was united through photography and the ability to share their views, needs and experiences of living with a disability.

Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) work with women who suffer from cast discrimination in India and by partnering with PhotoVoice we aimed to facilitate a body of photographic work that can be used in the campaign to eradicate manual scavenging in India. SKA and the Dalits Solidarty Network will use the participants photographs and writings to target policy and decision makers in the End Manual Scavenging campaign. This project created powerful images that enabled people directly involved in manual scavenging to talk about the effect of the practice and to speak directly to public audiences.

The issue: 
Disabled people are often excluded from full participation in society, particularly in less developed countries and often have a low social status. Grassroots disabled people are frequently excluded from decision making processes and often feel rejected by society.

Discrimination and exclusion has caused illiteracy in many of the disabled and so disability becomes a cause and consequence of poverty. The Millennium Goals neglected the disabled as a key group in need of support however, the elimination of poverty will not be possible without taking into account the rights and needs of disabled people.

In recognition of this PhotoVoice aimed to increase the influence of grassroots disabled people over social policies, practices and public attitudes in Africa and Asia.

PhotoVoice trained the participants to document their lives and experiences by taking photographs, showing the daily challenges they face and seizing the opportunity to express their views on improvements that could and should be made to improve the lives of disabled people in their society. The participants were provided with basic photographic training – composition, framing, colour and black and white photography, use of flash, angle and point of view. To encourage and facilitate dialogue on disability issues the participants were asked to outline the areas that they would like to use photography as a means of advocacy.

Issues that the participants wanted to be address by advocacy included:

–       Equal rights

–       Right to Education

–       Right to employment

–       Independence/ self-reliance

–       Positive change of attitude

–       When they have a problem/ face a barrier nobody helps them

–       Disabled people are often poor and doctors will not help them

–       Disabled people are often violated and verbally abused

–       Disabled women often greatly suffer and can be abused

–       The fact that there is no social security

–       Accessibility issues.

“I have great esteem and consideration for this PhotoVoice project about my life as a disabled person.

I, Djonga Martin of Congolese nationality (DRC) born in Kinshasa and living in Cameroon with this disability. I had a lot of problems with my right leg. I am an artist. I am a painter and decorator. I would have liked to travel to London in order to pursue my studies in art. In fact, I want to thank PhotoVoice and Healthlink for having organised this training that has enabled me to become a photographer today.” Djonga Martin – project participant 

“I feel bad when I see the way handicapped people are treated. Really, I implore the help of all to better the situation of the disabled, morally and financially. Let’s have mercy and empathy so that they may not feel guilty because of their situation, and that they should feel that they are fully part of the society.

Project Outputs: 
The images were exhibited in each country and a broushure for the NGO ‘Social Assistance and rehabilitation for the Physically Vulnerable’ was created.

Project Gallery: