Life As A Teenage Girl

A couple of month's back, in Narok, Kenya, Christian Aid trained seven pregnant teenage girls and six teenage mums how to take photos. It was nothing fancy, we just showed them the basics of photographic techniques - framing, exposure, a bit about the technical requirements of the camera.

We called this initiative Picture Power (because we're better at empowering communities than naming things) and the idea was that the photos would document the challenges people faced as well as the impact of our work.

We wanted these women to be able to tell their story and the training allowed them the opportunity to do that in a visually engaging way. One rule - we didn't tell them what to aim their cameras at - it was totally up to them to decide what elements of the world around them they wanted to capture.

Once they'd each chosen their favourite images, they were all displayed at a community exhibition alongside the stories that inspired the shot. It was a way for these teenagers to communicate the issues that affected them most. The things they cared about most deeply.

In Narok, over 600 people attended the exhibition, including well respected and influential people in the community such as teachers, priests and chiefs.

Having experienced the exhibition, the community as a whole was unable to ignore the issues highlighted in the photos. Wonderfully, the community leaders made the following commitments.

  1. Involve boys more in helping to prevent pregnancies
  2. Promote better communication between parents and children so that adults might better meet the needs of their kids better
  3. Educate the community about the law (already in place) which punishes sex with under age girls
  4. More vocational training for girls to provide alternative sources of income

All that change stemming from a group of young women picking up cameras and showing others what the world looked like through their eyes.

Maybe Picture Power isn't such a bad name after all?

Here are some of the pictures with extracts from their stories:

'This is my grandmother, my father’s mother. When I gave birth to my baby my parents sent me away, but my grandmother hosted me. I no longer live with her. My parents forgave me after I gave birth and I now live with them.' - Naomi Chepngetich Terer
'They had this meat at my neighbour’s house, if I had money I could have bought beef and eaten it with my brothers and sisters at home, like other people do.' - Faith Chepkoech
'This photo shows a lady who was forced out and isolated and didn’t have any resources so she decided to make ropes to sell so she is able to feed the baby. I don’t get enough food, so I sell rope so I can feed myself.' - Joan Chepngetich
'My brother bought this land and gave it to my mum. It grows maize and sweet potatoes. I feel like planting, but I’m not allowed. My mother is willing but my brother prevents it because he says I should go and with the father of my baby' - Ivine Chepkorir
'This is a photo of a girl wearing her school uniform. It reminds me when I was in school. I have a child so I can’t continue my education, but the father of my child is able to go to school.' - Picoty Chepngetich
'This is a family meal, a mix of maize and beans, sometimes I feel like cooking them and frying them nicely, but I can’t afford oil and other things to make it nice. This is very hard for a baby to chew, so my baby can’t eat it.' - Faith Chebet
'I took this photo because it reminded me of the money my boyfriend used to get me to sleep with him.' - Mercy Cherono