In the face of escalating climate-related hardships, women have emerged as unsung heroes, driving resilience and confronting vulnerabilities head-on. However, their voices are often sidelined in policy discussions, depriving them of the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their lives.

Recognizing this critical gap, the National Adaptation Plan Global Network (NAP GN), in addition to working to support countries in their NAP processes, work to ensure that NAP processes are gender responsive and inclusive. They acknowledge that grassroots communities hold valuable insights, and governments are open to hearing from them. Yet, facilitating meaningful dialogues between these two important groups has often remained a challenge.

Upon discovering Lensational’s method of empowering women through photography and storytelling, a significant potential was recognised in utilizing these visual narratives as a means to convey their perspectives and stimulate discussions about climate change adaptation. Consequently, a partnership to pilot an innovative approach was established in May 2021 with financial support from Global Affairs Canada. In this initiative, participants were trained to capture and document their lived experiences with climate change and their aspirations for resilience.

This report illuminates the profound impact of this collaborative effort on policymakers, and it emphasizes how much promise this inventive approach holds meaningfully engaging with policy makers.



The first cohort of Lensational’s skill building programme New Perspectives In Documentary Photography is now open for applications. 

The New Perspectives programme is an advanced photography programme, designed as a follow-up to our existing basic photography programme, and targeting emerging women photographers  – both former Lensational students, and external applicants – who are seeking support to advance their professional career. 
Our experience delivering our foundational photography programme over the years has highlighted a need amongst Lensational alumnae for more continuous and advanced support. I has also highlighted a need for opening up our training to other women photographers in the industry. 
There is a pervasive tendency in documentary photography, to approach communities with preconceived notions about how their stories should be told. Often, we evaluate the circumstances of low-income, communities through our own lens, rather than theirs, and end up misrepresenting them. This programme is also designed to reshape such narratives, and ackowledge the desire communities have, for active participation in shaping how they are portrayed. 

Who can apply:

This programme is open to all women photographers from underrepresented backgrounds – this includes any form of underrepresentation – women from low-income backgrounds, women who have been displaced, women from underrepresented ethnic & religious communities, women with disabilities, etc. We ackowledge that ‘disadvantage’ can mean many things in different contexts. We will therefore review your application on a case by case basis. 


This is an online course


The course will start in August/September 2023 and will run for 4 months. Sessions will run every two weeks. 

What will be covered:

Application details

The deadline fo rapplications is June, 30th, 2023. Please submit your candidacy by filling the following application form.

by Lydia Wanjiku

I have been reflecting on the best way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Lensational, which happens to coincide with International Women’s Day. It has been challenging to condense a decade’s worth of work into a concise blog post, however what is undeniably certain is the I would love to highlight is the impact we have made and the lessons we are carrying forward, especially in light of this year’s International Women’s Day theme by the UN, “Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality.”

Our 10th anniversary is a significant milestone for us, and it symbolises our resilience and dedication to our mission. Despite facing challenges and setbacks where we’ve had to navigate through funding uncertainties, operational challenges, and the global pandemic, to name a few, we have persevered and grown stronger over time.

While there is much to share about our journey, I had a conversation with our Founder, Bonnie Chiu, which has resonated with me.

“If there are three words that I would use to sum up the last decade it would be: Beauty, Resilience, and Dignity”

She encapsulated the essence of Lensational’s work over the past decade in these three words. I couldn’t agree more and it’s upon these words that I will anchor our reflections on this and the coming decade.


When we reflect on the concept of beauty and how it relates to our work at Lensational, a multitude of thoughts and emotions come to mind. In our experience beauty is more than just a visual aesthetic; it is a holistic representation of the women we work with and the lasting impressions they leave on us through their lived experiences.

We are first reminded of the beauty that emanates from their stories. These stories encapsulate their unique perspectives, experiences, and aspirations, and are a reflection of the diverse backgrounds they come from. From garment workers in Bangladesh to isolated women in the Himalayas, from foreign domestic workers in HongKong to indigenous Maasai women in Kenya, we have continually been moved and deeply inspired by the incredibly unique perspectives and insights that these amazing women bring to the world.

This first picture that reminds us of beauty is this picture of rose with the background of Dakar the capital of Bangladesh.


This photo, taken by a garment worker from Bangladesh, captures the idea that there is immense beauty in the world. No matter how challenging life may become, holding onto the beauty that surrounds us can help us find a way forward.

Another image that immediately springs to mind for me is a photograph by Claire Metito featuring three joyful and robust calves.

Playful healthy calves. Photo by Claire Metito

This picture was taken in Esiteti village, Amboseli, Kenya, following a prolonged drought period. A night of rain had provided some pasture for livestock to grow. Livestock is vital for the Maasai community, and Claire was fascinated by the calves’ good health, reflected in their shiny, lustrous coats resulting from the availability of lush grazing land. To Claire and her community, the joy of the calves and their well-being represented a symbol of hope that things would improve.

These two are good examples of how these womens’ diverse backgrounds and experiences endow them with a unique perspective that enables them to see the world in their own light, and their photographs offer us a breathtaking and priceless glimpse into these distinct viewpoints. Through their lenses, they remind us that beauty exists everywhere, even in the face of adversity and harsh realities.

The second aspect of beauty that we associate with our work is the privilege we have of observing the incredible growth and confidence that blossoms within the women we work with as they acquire new skills and use photography to share their stories with the world. Witnessing this newfound sense of empowerment and agency is a truly heartwarming experience, and it reaffirms our belief in the remarkable power of digital storytelling to drive positive change.

An anecdote I love to share is an experience I witnessed during a policy workshop in Kenya, a culmination of a programme that we run in collaboration with NAP GN. During this workshop in Kenya we brought our indigenous Maasai female photographers together with climate adaptation policy makers to discuss the stories developed by the women depicting their experiences with climate change and what adaptation means to them. I recall feeling uncertain about whether the policy makers would be receptive.

What stuck with me was that they came in donning their formal and stern demeanour.

After the event, however, they loosened up and engaged with the women, with some lingering on and interacting with them despite other commitments. The women, in turn, exuded confidence as they shared their experiences and traditional knowledge with the policy makers, and their body language spoke volumes.


Resilience is a crucial element of our work, one that we hold dear and that is embodied by the remarkable women we collaborate with, as well as our own team.

The women we work with have faced numerous challenges and obstacles, yet they continue to push forward with determination and grit. One group of women who have taught us the most about resilience are the indigenous Maasai women in Kenya. For generations, they have been the guardians of their land, but they are now facing the devastating effects of climate change. The effects of climate change have been devastating for the Maasai women, with prolonged droughts, erratic weather patterns, and declining access to natural resources. Despite these daunting challenges, the Maasai women have remained remarkably resilient, drawing upon their ancient traditions and resourcefulness to adapt, survive and protect their families and livelihoods.

I am reminded of Kiragosho, a livestock and crop farmer from Melili Narok, Kenya, whose resilience is beautifully captured in a photo by her niece, Irene Naneu. Despite facing prolonged periods of drought, Kiragosho persists in finding innovative ways to till her land and cultivate crops that can withstand the harsh conditions prevalent in the region.

Kiragosho a livestock and crop farmer tilling around her farm in Melili Narok, Kenya. Photo by Irene Naneu

This strength and perseverance serves as a reminder for all of us, inspiring us to stand up for what we believe in and work towards a better future for ourselves and our planet.

The journey of Lensational has also required a great deal of resilience. It has been an incredible journey, filled with both triumphs and challenges. From our humble beginnings as a small project in Hong Kong, in the early years, when many doubted our mission. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, when funding was scarce and uncertainty was high and we persisted and adapted to what we are today a global movement with steady operations and gradually expanding to reach women in all corners of the world. 

But we know that our journey is far from over, and recognise that our resilience is not only reflected in our ability to adapt to new challenges but also in the steadfast dedication of our team, volunteers, and supporters. Our collective resilience and passion for our mission has kept us going, even when the road ahead seemed uncertain or difficult. We have formed strong partnerships and a community of individuals who share our values and believe in the power of digital storytelling to make a difference in the lives of the women we serve and create positive social impact.


Dignity is at the heart of all the work that we do. Our training principle is based on the belief that all personal accounts documented by the women must be represented with utmost respect and dignity. We strive to empower the women we work with to share their stories in their own voices and on their own terms.

In fact, it’s not about us teaching the women, but rather about the women teaching us. We simply provide them with the tools and resources they need to tell their stories, and in the process, they show us the power of agency and the importance of having a voice.

One particular image that comes to mind when we reflect on dignity is a photograph capturing Bonnie’s grandmother, Lin Fa, hugging Anik, one of our photographers, during an exhibition.

Lin Fa’s inspiring story of perseverance through adversity served as the catalyst for the creation of Lensational. This moment feels like a full-circle moment to me. I’m certain that during her difficult upbringing in Medan, Indonesia, as she fled to Hong Kong during an anti-Chinese conflict, she never imagined that she would one day be standing in the midst of the very movement that she helped to inspire.

We are grateful decade of remarkable work, growth, and impact. Despite facing numerous challenges, Lensational has persevered and remained steadfast in its mission to empower women through digital storytelling and we we look ahead it is our hope is that these three words: Beauty, Resilience and Dignity will carry through to our next decade.

Lensational was excited to feature amongst guest speakers at A Broken Planet: How we Got here and Ways to Fix It, the event organised by the Natural History Museum last week to discuss ways forward in Climate Action following COP 26.

Lensational’s work on Climate has been an important thread since our inception in 2013. Today, elevating the voices of women who bear the brunt of climate induced catastrophes is vital, and we are doing just that, thanks to our latest project in partnership with the NAP Global Network and Global Affairs Canada.

Our CEO, Lydia Wanjiku Kibandi, took part in the panel Gender Equality in A Planetary Emmergency, to share highlights of the project, which will be showcased in coming months, and to discuss why elevating women’s voices will be essential to an effective climate adaptation plan. We were very pleased to take part in an insightful discussion and to connect with inspiring women from a diverse range of backgrounds, who are truly making changes in the space. Find out more about the event here. 

Women and especially indigenous women remain under-represented in the climate movement. How can visual activism help broaden the movement and elevate women’s voices?

We were honoured for our CEO, Lydia Wanjiku Kibandi, to join the New York Times’ Climate Hub for an inspiring series of talks on the occasion of COP 26, the United Nations’ Climate Change conference. On November 11th, 2021, Lydia took part in the panel discussion, A Picture Worth a Thousand Words, to speak about Lensational’s work at the nexus of gender & climate alongside inspiring visual activists.

In 2021, Lensational embarked on a pioneering project with the National Adaptation Plan Global Network, aiming to elevate the stories of women at the frontlines of climate change to policy markers in Kenya and Ghana. We were very excited to share more about this new programme, and to represent our cohort of women, on the New York Times’ stage. Watch a recording of the event here

We are thrilled to announce a new partnership with the National Adaptation Plan Global Network, under which we will offer tailored training to underrepresented women in Ghana, and Kenya, supporting them in sharing their stories around climate change with policymakers.
It is already well documented that the effects of climate change aren’t gender neutral. Our photo book, Our Shared Forest, showcases the disproportionate impact climate change has on women, and particularly on women in low income communities.
To ensure successful climate action, we need to represent, hear, and see, the voices of underrepresented women. Our programme with NAP will seek to do just that, while continuing to amplify the voices of the women we serve.
Find out more.

After eight years of serving Lensational as its CEO, our dear Bonnie Chiu has decided to step down this year. We are excited to announce that Lydia Wanjiku, Lensational’s Global Programmes Manager, will succeed Bonnie as Lensational’s next CEO.

International Women’s Day is a special day for Lensational, as it is also our birthday. Eight years ago, our co-founder Bonnie Chiu created a Facebook page, and launched our first pilot programmes training underrepresented women with photography storytelling. Bonnie’s innovative idea soon grew into a global movement, with volunteers across the globe, and over 1000 women reached, in over 20 countries.

The idea of Lensational was unique, and at times, difficult to pitch, eight years ago. We were talking about empowering women to grow a voice, and share their stoires, years before gender equality, let alone topics of diversity, and representation in the media, became a conversation. Nevertheless, Lensational grew steadily, and counted many achievements, including United Nation Awards, exhibitions, and features in global media outlets, including BBC, and ABC News.

In the past year, diversity has been a key topic, and forced many to think harder about representation, and shifting the power. At Lensational, diversity has always been always the conversation – it was the very idea behind what we do. And for us, this year, as we say goodbye to Bonnie, diversity translates into a desire to move away from a founder-centric movement, towards a collective model, anchored in the field, and closer to the women we serve. It is with this in mind, that we welcome Lydia as Lensational’s new CEO, who will be based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Join us in wishing Lydia a warm welcome, and read Bonnie’s piece, reflecting on the past eight years, on meeting Lydia, and on her decision to step down.