Finding other Malalas

Non-formal school girls in Pakistan

Pakistan has bred heroines like Benazir Bhutto, the first woman elected to head a Muslim country, and Malala Yousafzai, who risked her life in the fight for access to education for girls.

But the country also has the highest Not In Education and Employment (NEET) rate for women in South Asia (64.3%), compared to a male NEET rate of 9.3% (ILO).

Pakistan is Lensational’s first overseas programme location. Our training programme seeks to empower women economically by giving them the flexibility to earn a supplementary income, as well as to challenge pervasive gender stereotypes that hold women back.

In August and September 2013, we partnered with the Citizens’ Commission for Human Development (CCHD) in Lahore, led by Ms. Farrah Azeem Khan, an inspirational leader who worked closely with Benazir Bhutto.

We provided photography training to teachers and students – mostly girls – in non-formal schools who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. We also conducted photography training with Sheed Society, which provides free education for children of sex workers in Lahore’s red district – a heavily stigmatised community.

Lensational's Pakistan programme revealed the submersive power of photography.

During one of the workshops, we asked the participants – young girls and boys – to pose on a motorbike. To our surprise, all the boys rushed to pose on it, but none of the girls moved. They were confused, because in this part of Pakistan, women are not seen driving motorbikes. Eventually however, one of the girls raised her hand with courage and jumped on the engine, probably for the first time in her life. Her eyes were sparkling. We named this photograph ‘Courage to Drive’. Men and boys may show skepticism in the beginning, as the faces in this photograph suggest, but as they see new images of girls and women, they may change their minds.

Photographer in portrait : Rimsha

Rimsha is 12 years old and comes from the Lahore district in Pakistan. She dreams of becoming a doctor when she is older, and wants to study hard to be able to achieve her dream.
Rimsha was very enthusiastic during the Lensational workshop, she loved taking photogaphs of the world around her.

This photograph, which inspired our other photography programmes – brings to life the mission of Lensational – to inspire and create new meanings for women and girls worldwide.

Our programmes in Pakistan were featured in the Express Tribune, a major newspaper in Pakistan, as well as in the Guardian.

The story behind “Courage to drive” was also shared with an international audience during our two TedX talks, resonating with many.


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