In June 2008, the Sonke Gender Justice, with support from UNICEF, launched its PhotoVoice project with 20 children at Mphathesitha High School in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
In a four-day workshop, the children were taught how to take photographs and write stories illustrating the challenges and experiences of their daily lives. The resulting posters have been collated into a compelling exhibition which powerfully illustrates the hopes and dreams of these young people.
The project put special emphasis on gender equality and the role of men in the children’s lives.
“I learnt many things,” says 15-year-old Thulane Shange. “I used to think boys and girls can’t do the same things. I thought girls have to clean, cook and do chores around the house, and boys have to fetch firewood and herd cattle.”
Participants in the project have already started implementing their new understanding of gender equality, with a girls’ soccer team having been formed at the school.
Children’s Participation in Community Building
Amongst the needs expressed through the PhotoVoice project were the lack of water and electricity, and children’s fears for their own safety when walking through the streets.
The childrens’ posters were viewed by many members of the community, including representatives from the local municipality who have promised to take these inputs into account when planning for the community. “Through interacting directly with children, IDPs will be informed by the children, and not only talk about them,” says Nkandla municipality strategic planning and implementation manager, Mbongiseni Ndledla.
Eight of the children were selected to transform their posters into Digital Stories. These children participated in a digital storytelling workshop in September, where they learnt how to create short videos and narrate their stories.
The poster exhibition and digital stories will be distributed widely, to ensure that as many people as possible hear the real needs and concerns of these young citizens.