Gender inequality is an unfortunate fact of life in many parts of the world. One company is seeking to reduce the gap by using the documental power of photography to enable women to share their stories with the world.
In 2013, Bonnie Chiu and Peggy Tse launched Lensational, a company that uses donated camera equipment and workshops to train women in the art of photography in marginalized regions of the world. Almost immediately, Lensational had its first project, a training workshop for Indonesian and Filipino workers located in Hong Kong. Soon, these were expanded to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China, all using a combination of Lensational staff and local photographers.
What makes Chiu and Tse's company particularly noteworthy, however, is the continuing level of involvement they maintain with the women they connect with. Whereas the first purpose of the workshops is to empower women who have endured the extreme adversity characteristic of the major gender gaps in many areas of the world and to use photography as a therapeutic tool of expression, the second is to enable independence by allowing those who show a proclivity for photography to become local photojournalists. Lensational acts as an intermediate through which these women can sell their work, not only providing an independent income, but also documenting aspects of life that might not be seen otherwise.
One of the program's best success stories is Arumy Marzudhy, a former Indonesian domestic worker, who after taking the Hong Kong workshop, became a wedding photographer and returned to Indonesia, working as a freelance writer and photographer and pursuing a college degree.
Being a project at the intersection of culture, social entrepreneurship, and feminism allows us to meet a variety of forward-thinking people whom we have learned a lot from.
As Lensational moves forward, they are planning workshops in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tunisia, while a recently forged relationship with Mattel finds the company working to help reinvent Barbie as a message of gender equality and female capability. The company is also working to develop a portfolio platform for program participants on their website, as well as an incentive program through which participants can earn cameras of their own. As a program that fosters the development of individual and social identity through artistic expression in tandem with the empowerment of marginalized women through the creation of independent income, Lensational is one of the most intriguing and promising photography projects I've come across. You can read more about Lensational on their website.
All images used with permission by Lensational.