UNICEF Photo Essay

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Vulnerable children get behind the lens in South African photo workshop

Slightly built Nokwanda, 12, buried her head in her hands every time someone asked her a question. Her participation in a recent UNICEF-supported photography workshop in Estcourt, South Africa looked like it would be limited.

Yet when asked to pick a favorite photograph, Nokwanda was transformed. She knew immediately which to choose, pointing to a photo of police officers at the Lyndhurst Primary School, which she attends. “This is my favorite because it shows the policeman telling us that it is important to report anyone who does anything bad to us,” she said, suddenly sitting bolt upright.

The photography workshop, funded by UNICEF partner Gucci, was conducted in the semi-rural town of Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa’s poorest province.
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UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0505/Sibonelo Khumalo. South Africa 2010

Despite progress made since the apartheid era, South Africa remains one of the world’s most unequal countries in terms of income disparities. HIV/AIDS has also had a devastating impact. It is estimated that over half of the country’s 2.5 million orphans have lost a parent to AIDS.

Out of the 400 students at Lyndhurst Primary School, 81 have lost one parent and 24 have lost both. In addition to the distress of being orphaned, these children are highly vulnerable to abuse.

Rates of sexual assault in South Africa are among the highest in the world, and children are most at risk. More than 50 students at the Lyndhurst Primary School, including Nokwanda, walk for hours along isolated paths to get to class.
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UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0509/Sibonelo Khumalo. South Africa 2010

Against this backdrop, UNICEF photographer Giacomo Pirozzi conducted the photography workshop, teaching basic camera skills to 20 children – all of them poor, orphaned or otherwise disadvantaged. At the end of the workshop, the newly minted photographers reviewed their work, discussing the merits and messages of their own and each other’s images. Then they captioned the best of their photographs. The workshop culminated in a vote on the best photographer, best photograph and best group work, and each participant received a certificate.

Gucci, the funder of the workshop and a UNICEF partner since 2005, is also the largest corporate supporter of Schools for Africa, a program established in 2004 by UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Hamburg Society. Schools for Africa promotes quality schooling for all children, including those living in extreme poverty and those who have been orphaned by AIDS. It now funds education programs in 11 African countries.
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UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0538/Mxolshi Zondi. South Africa 2010

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