In an interesting New York Times article by Karen Leigh about weight lifting in the United Arab Emirates, the 22-year-old female weigh lifter Amna Al Haddad affirms the importance of seeing images that expose women and girls to the benefits of sports:
“…when they see someone like them doing it, they can identify…”
She is one of only twelve women who train competitively as weight lifters in the United Arab Emirates. Females in the U.A.E. who take part in the sport are often looked upon as having masculine characteristics or identified as lesbians, which is a considered a crime in the country. Read the whole article here.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak with Amy-Willard Cross, the founder of Vitamin W. Vitamin W is a news site with “your daily dose of news, business, and philanthropy for women.” The site has an incredible collection of news and stories about what women are doing all over the world in the field of philanthropy and more. It was a pleasure to speak with Amy and the result of our conversation is a cool visual essay that combines excerpts of our conversation with photographs from the first Through Her Eyes Project exhibit. You can check out the story and explore the Vitamin W website here.
Here are the postcards produced from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) grand prize and finalist photos from the “Empowering Girls and Women Through Sports” photo contest. And right there in the middle - the photo of the girls with the basketballs - is a shot I took at a school in Guayaquil, Ecuador during a physical education class. And one of the grand prize winning shots!
I was spending the afternoon with two teachers and their students and this moment was captured as the teachers told each girl to pick up a ball and return to the court. The two teachers, who were leading the physical education class, had each been doing so for nearly twenty years. After the class, one of the teachers told me what she thought the class meant to the girls: “We’re here to lead them. To let them know that this is for them. To give them a place to learn and to feel like they can do it. We’re their leaders, when they don’t have leaders.”
The photo contest is part of a larger U.S. State Department plan called the: “Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative.” You can read about the initiative and see all of the finalist photographs here. Among other things, the initiative involves a mentor program the State Department and espnW have developed called the Global Women’s Sports Mentoring Program, in which promising female leaders from abroad are paired with leading American women in sports fields in order to build sustainable partnerships and support networks.
The first class of the mentor program completed their training earlier this month and our photos and postcards were on display in Washington D.C. at the closing luncheon. Barb Lazarus of GameOn! Sports Camps was in attendance and she picked up these postcards and she shared them with me when I sat down with her last week.
Later this year, I’ll be heading to D.C. to meet with members of the State Department to learn more about their sports diplomacy programs.
On October 3rd, 2012 the YWCA of Evanston held their 5th annual YWomen Leadership Awards. The awards “recognize, support and promote women’s leadership and the impact women have in our community.” It was a fantastic night with over 400 attendees.
And to learn a little about each of the winners and the awards you can watch the profile video above - created by the talented filmmaker Susan Hope Engel. (My portion starts at around the 12 minute mark.)
Last week, Maria Eitel of the Nike Foundation wrote an article in the Huffington Post about the importance of the first ever United Nations International Day of the Girl, which was celebrated on October 12, 2012.
Eitel writes: “What we must do is start with programs that are designed with girls. They ask us to tell you, the people who design the programs for health, agriculture and food security, water, and economic opportunity that target them, to listen to their voices. Insights from girls will create solutions that will not harm them or waste their potential.”
From my own experience in interviewing and listening to the voices of girls in Ecuador and in other places around the world - the freedom and right to play sports matters to them. They want to have the right to play. And alongside this desire to have the right to play, they want to have the right to education, clean water, the freedom to pursue their dreams and to achieve things beyond the limitations that are sometimes placed on them. Sports can, does and will give girls and women the confidence and the strength to pursue education, fight for their rights and the rights of their families and to feel empowered. If we give girls sports, we also give them the confidence to fight for their rights to so much more.
Eitel writes: “When you put a girl at the center of change, she changes everything. This is the “girl effect.” In the world today, there are an estimated 250 million adolescent girls living in poverty. The untapped potential of these 250 million girls is the most powerful force for positive change. So to honor these girls today, do these simple things: Listen to them and design all programs with them in mind. Make them visible; don’t assume that they are included in what you do. Make them visible. They want to be counted…And finally, invest in their potential like we really mean it. That is how to honor these girls on their first International Day of the Girl.”
And so, in celebration of the International Day of the Girl why not…
LISTEN TO THEM.
Click through to some of the THROUGH HER EYES PROJECT videos to listen to the stories of some girls and women as THEY TELL YOU WHY THEY DESERVE TO PLAY SPORTS, WHAT THEY GET OUT OF THE FREEDOM TO PLAY, AND WHY THEY BELIEVE IT IS SO IMPORTANT IN THEIR LIVES.
AND THEN, SUPPORT THEM AND THE THROUGH HER EYES PROJECT…
The THROUGH HER EYES PROJECT is looking for funding and partner organizations to fund the next step of a reporting trip and exhibit to continue telling the stories of girls and women around the world to make their voices and faces visible to the world. We are in the final steps of our nonprofit application process, so check back soon on how you can support the project. For now, you can show you support by liking the project on FACEBOOK and following the project on TWITTER and TUMBLR.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Monica Murphy-Vargas, the founder and editor of SportsDivas, Inc. The result - a wonderful profile of the Through Her Eyes Project that is now up on the SportsDivas website. Head over to the site to read the full piece. SportsDivas is a cool new website with the mission to “educate, empower and entertain women with the core details and story lines of the day’s hottest sports stories, all while introducing the fundamentals of the game.”
The winners of the “Empowering Women and Girls through Sports” Photo Contest sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) in the U.S. Department of State were announced earlier today. And my photo was selected as one of two grand prize winning photographs! You can see all of the finalist photographs here. What an honor to have one of the photographs I shot in Ecuador, which launched the Through Her Eyes Project, selected as the winning photo. Thank you to Exchanges Connect, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), the State Department, Assistant Secretary Ann Stock and everyone behind the “Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports” initiative for creating a new launchpad for recognizing and promoting sports as a tool for the development and the betterment of girls and women around the world. Congratulations to all of the finalists and to everyone who submitted a photograph. Let’s keep capturing these amazing moments around the world and sharing these faces and stories so that we can encourage more women and girls to get in the game and we can show the world how important sports are in the lives of everyone.
Earlier this year the U.S. State Department launched their “Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative.” I was in attendance at the International Olympic Committee’s Women and Sports Conference in Los Angeles, California when Assistant Secretary State Ann Stock announced this incredible project. As part of their growing initiative to reach a worldwide audience they have launched numerous projects from sports envoys, to a sports council, to mentor programs with espnW. Most recently they announced a photo contest: “From neighborhood street games to professional events, the stories captured in these photographs should celebrate the women and girls in sports. This contest will celebrate the U.S. Department of State’s “Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative,” which mobilizes sports diplomacy as a means to empower women and girls and increase the number of girls participating in sports worldwide.”
The Through Her Eyes Project is dedicated to doing just this. As a longtime advocate of using the power of media and photography and video to share the stories of girls and women who play sports to empower women and girls around the world, this initiative and contest drew me in from the minute that Secretary Stock announced the initiative and the instant I learned about the contest. I entered two of the photos from the Through Her Eyes Project and I am honored and excited to announce that both photos are being considered as finalists in the contest. The winners will be announced this week. You can learn more about the initiative and the contest here.
This Wednesday night the winners of the 5th annual YWomen Leadership Awards will be honored in Evanston, Illinois. Each year the YWCA Evanston/North Shore Leadership Awards program honors three women and a local organization. The program was created to “recognize, support and promote women’s leadership and the impact women have in our community.”
I am excited to be one of the three women who will be receiving an award. As the Lorraine H. Morton Young Woman of Promise nominee, I will be honored alongside civil rights activist Alice Tregay and Kaethe Morris Hoffer, an outspoken advocate for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.
Last month I had the pleasure of meeting these inspiring women and many members of the YWomen Board. Over the past few months, I have also had the wonderful experience of meeting and working with Susan Hope Engel who creates a film about the winners each year.
You can read more about the awards and the recipients here.
A great feature piece on the Through Her Eyes Project went up this week on the EmoryWire and the Emory University Alumni website. You can click through here for the story and the current September issue of the EmoryWire. Special thanks to Michelle Valigursky for the feature piece and great write up.
“For the first time, the American Olympic team had more women than men. For the first time, every national team included at least one woman, and that was because three Muslim countries that had never before sent a female athlete to the Olympics finally did so. One of those countries was Saudi Arabia, and one its two female competitors was Sarah Attar, who ran the 800 meters with her legs covered. At the start she beamed at the crowd, her smile an acknowledgement of history in the making. And though she lagged far behind everyone else in her heat, the crowd roared louder and louder as she approached the finish line, then gave her a standing ovation. It was as if she set a world record. Then again, she had.”
- Frank Bruni. “The Soul of the Olympics.” New York Times August 12, 2012.
When the Chicago Sky took on the Atlanta Dream last Friday night, the team took to the floor to play and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the passing of Title IX legislation. I was honored to be asked by the team to display some of my photographs from the Through Her Eyes Project as part of the celebration. It was a fantastic night where the Sky celebrated the work of nine women for their accomplishments in the arena of sports and women and girls. And I got a chance to show the photographs and share the stories of the women and girls from another corner of the world with all of the Sky fans and honorees. The arena was full of TITLE IX: the players uniforms had the Roman numerals IX on the front of their jerseys instead of their numbers, fans screamed out when shots were made and waved their Sky and Title IX balloons, and little girls with painted faces filled the stands. After the game I saw some of the girls streaming through the arena, the word TITLE written on to their faces and an I and X drawn onto each one of their cheeks. And as they weaved their way past me to get autographs from the Sky players, I got chills. I’d like to think that as the girls were putting on the paint, they were thinking about how they could be and do any thing they wanted. Title IX has allowed women and girls to believe in their dreams. And that is what happens when you let people play.
The Through Her Eyes Project is an innovative multimedia project designed to profile girls and women in developing countries who play sports and highlight the benefits they gain. Through visual storytelling, this project aims to share these stories both online and on the ground, to motivate a world of stronger women, families, communities and countries. By sharing these stories we hope to improve the well being of girls and women, accelerate community building and promote social change.
The project was carried out for the first time in Ecuador where we interviewed, photographed and filmed girls and women around the country, who play sports. The exhibit was shown in six cities in Ecuador during the summer of 2011. In the winter of 2011, the project was invited to be showcased at the South American Beach Games in Manta, Ecuador.
The exhibit was shown for the first time in the U.S. on June 1-3 at the Chicago Art Department.
From November to January 2013 visit the Chicago Art District showPODs located on the 1800 block of South Halsted Street to see some of the work in person.
Click the Exhibit link above for more details on upcoming events. And you can visit our project site to learn more: www.throughhereyes.org
All videos and photography that are not sourced are original content of the Through Her Eyes Project.