Series-Handmaidens of the Lord – 1. Portrait of a Photographer- Stephanie Sinclair.
(The photo is of Auntie Shirley’s wedding BTW.)
This is a first for me, but as next week is our “Say no to violence” week I wanted to celebrate some of the women whom I have been inspired by over the years and reflect on their compassion, resilience and advocacy for women across the globe and to give acknowledgement to the amazing lengths they have gone to, to empower, strengthen and rebuild the lives of others – hence the title- Handmaidens of the Lord.
My first is Stephanie Sinclair. She is an amazing and award-winning photo-journalist who has captured the stories closest to many women’s hearts across the world. In 2012 I first came across her work on “Too Young to wed” It was based on a series of photographs she had captured over a long period of time for the National Geographic telling the stories of marriages and marriage celebrations across the globe. I came across it trying to find something different and of substance to inspire my teenage students who were looking at sexuality marriage and rites of passage.
2012 had been a humbling year for me, and whilst teaching High School students can be complex I have always regarded it as a privilege especially when I have senior classes full of bright and empowered young women. I wanted to share with our young women the stories of women around the world. I wanted them to be empowered and recognise their place, privileges and opportunities in a world where more than 700 million women were married before the age of 18. I wanted them to embrace their lives and value the education and opportunities offered to them by living in a culture and society that generally supports and recognises the value of women, where my students are unlikely to die before the age of 15 in childbirth unlike their peers in countries like Afghanistan.
I found Stephanie, and I found Nujood Ali and I found a beautiful colourful but corrupt world. It was the beauty of the imagery and the short succinct nature of the film that made it perfect to use in class and my students accepted it in stunned silence. Some even went to the library and borrowed the book by Nujood Ali. It was the first year I took my students globe-trotting in an attempt to get them to value their own roots and I will never regret it.
Stephanie Sinclair demonstrated compassion integrity and tenacity in her endeavours to get the issue noticed in the Western world. Her advocacy and its continued impact for women has continued to send ripples through society. We faced further horror as the years went by when we recognised the other darker sides of the treatment of women and recognised that for many our experiences here in New Zealand would seem beyond the stuff of dreams.
Stephanie set up a global initiative based on “Too young to wed” aimed at creating positive experiences and rehabilitation for women who have suffered from the abuse of child marriage. The links to the video clips and the websites are at the end of the blog. Stephanie Sinclair continues to work to support and advocate and help women to heal in other projects she is involved in. One of the latest projects is called “Story half told” and it documents in portraits the struggles and journeys of women and their families living with, dying with and surviving Breast Cancer. Again the link is at the end of the blog.
So my first portrait in my series of acknowledgments to women who have made a difference to the lives of other women is of Stephanie Sinclair. Thank you for all that you are, all that you have done and all that you continue to do. I believe my life has been richer from appreciating your work and I believe that I, in turn, have passed some of that beauty and richness on. Much love. XXX