ActionAid hands over the camera for its Women by Women photo series

The year-long campaign is being shot only by local female photographers, in an attempt to “move away from the traditional photography associated with NGOs”

Female photographers in Afghanistan, Uganda and South Africa have contributed to the project so far, each focusing on the stories of individual women from their countries.

Tahmina Saleem, who’s based in Kabul, has captured the president of a fashion house in the city, which has been reviving the country’s traditional embroidery, as well as a street artist who sprays murals of women on walls across Kabul. In Kampala, documentary photographer Esther Mbabazi – whose work has appeared in Time Magazine and The Observer – has captured images of women from around capital, many of whom have their own stories of domestic violence.

Top image: Enjila Naseri in Kabul, with her hands bound ready to fight at her training, shot by Farzana Wahidy; above: Rahiba Ramimi in Kabul, shot by Tahmina Saleem
Shamsia Hassani sprays her latest work on a wall in Serahi Alauddin, Kabul, as workmen and passers-by look on, shot by Tahmina Saleem
Cossy, businesswoman in Kampala, shot by Esther Mbabazi

The campaign is an encouraging step toward addressing the gender gap in photography – something that CR recently covered in an interview with Equal Lens founder Jaki Jo Hannan, and Girlgaze founder Amanda de Cadenet.

More than that, what sets this campaign apart is its move from the ‘usual’ charity narrative. While many of the stories expressed in these images link with ActionAid’s work tackling violence against women and girls, this isn’t the sole focus of the campaign. It instead shows relatable details of individuals’ daily lives and experiences, avoiding the patronising tone that many charitable organisations still take.

Fakhria Momtaz takes a yoga class up to the mountains at Sharak-e Omid Sabz in Kabul, shot by Tahmina Saleem
Enjila Naseri warming and stretching before a training session at her gym in Kabul, shot by Farzana Wahidy

“We want to ensure that our visual storytellers are as diverse as the communities they are representing and our campaign marks a decisive move away from the traditional photography associated with NGOs,” says the charity’s Kate Samuelson, who’s part of the comms team.

“Publications wouldn’t fly me from Uganda to go and tell a story in the UK, but they would fly a photographer from the UK to go and tell a story in Uganda, but now things are starting to change – editors and producers are starting to realise that there’s actually talent on the ground that can do the job,” adds Mbabazi.