Migrant boys make themselves heard

Sonke Gender Justice

Sonke has worked with migrant boys living in Musina, Limpopo to produce a series of storytelling posters highlighting pressing issues in their community. Using the PhotoVoice methodology, the project encourages boys to use photography and writings to describe their daily lives focusing on their hopes, concerns and experiences related to human rights, gender and HIV and Aids.


The posters were the result of a series of workshops conducted over a period of three days with six boys from the URC Boys’ Shelter, a place of safety for unaccompanied minors, funded by UNHCR.

The initial idea had been to work with 15 boys from the shelter who had previously participated in One Man Can workshops. However, only six of the boys were available to participate in the PhotoVoice workshops, as the rest were not at the shelter during the period of the project. (This highlights one of the main challenges with working with migrant and refugee communities: their inherent mobility.) Nevertheless, we were pleased to be able to follow-up with some of the young men with whom we had previously worked, and the project resulted in a set of very powerful posters, covering a range of pertinent topics.

Community Exhibition

On 18 March 2010, an exhibition of the photos was held with support from the Musina municipality. Their commitment to the project was evidenced by the presence of Mayor MC Mahaselas, who appeared as the guest speaker at the exhibition. The Mayor expressed her gratitude at being part of the event and complimented Sonke, POWA and UNICEF for their work in Musina, and particularly the work with the boys.

“I am overwhelmed by the good work done by these young men, who shared their experiences in coming up with very interesting and informative photos,” she said. She also noted the tendency of the parents and elders to ignore the needs of their children and the importance of projects which help give young people a voice: “Children are human beings, so they need to be listened to and taken seriously”. The mayor committed her office to giving support to local organisations to help them to continue to respond to the challenges on HIV and Aids and gender-based violence. “I am committing my office and extend my invitation to all local organisations to knock at our doors and use our resources positively”.

Musina PhotoVoice Posters

The boys who participated on the PhotoVoice project were each presented with their framed biographies. The biographies were written by the boys themselves narrating their backgrounds and what they aspire to. “I am happy to have my biography and I will take it to my mom when I go home,” one of the boys reported, with tears of joy in his eyes.