Community Lens

Muslim Women in Mumbai take up the camera to document their lives and create
a very personal photo-essay that deals with issues of domestic violence,poverty
and personal hardships.

Community Lens

Muslim Women use photography to document their lives
The Photography Promotion trust along with Aawaaz-e-Niswaan and Point of View conducted a workshop followed by an exhibition called ‘Sculpting lives’ for 16 Muslim women in Mumbai.

About Aawaaz-e-Niswaan- (Urdu word for Voice of Women) is a non-profit organization formed in 1987 consisting of more than a thousand members. It is one of Mumbai’s oldest feminist organizations and is committed to working towards women’s rights and inadequacies of the legal system against women. The women of Aawaaz-e-Niswaan both provide a service and work on campaigns and advocacy. Its aim has been to empower and educate Muslim women in Mumbai. Along with Muslim women, Aawaaz-e-Niswaan creates spaces within the women’s movement for women from marginalized sections, be it tribal women, Dalit women or women from the LGBTQ+ community.

Point of View is a non-cover organization based in Mumbai. It is co-founded and directed by Bishakha Datta, a renowned filmmaker, activist and former journalist. The organization aims to promote the points of view of women through a creative and sustained use of media, art and culture. It co-produces newsletter like Veshyas, Vamps,and Whores and Women. Point of View undertakes programmes to understand the dynamics of the use of women in advertising.

The women who took part in the workshop were looking for new livelihoods for their sustenance and showed interest in photography. Most of these women were survivors of sexual of family violence. All of the women had been married at least once and had come to Awaz-E-Niswaan with gory stories of torture by the hands of their husbands and in-laws. They came, they sought aid, and had managed to take the first steps in discovering the strength in their existence. Even after facing a past full of hardships, the women of Aawaz-E-Niswaan showed no signs of desolation or lack of eagerness which motivated PPT to go forward with the initiative of educating and guiding the women about photography and providing them with a livelihood to channel their energy and zeal.

The initiative started with a workshop divided in 10 sessions carried out by renowned photojournalists Sudharak Olwe, Ravi Shekhar, Mexy Xavier and Jyotika Jain. Each session was divided specifically to give the women an in-depth and hands-on learning experience. The workshop started with a basic introduction to photography and gradually moved towards practical on-field assignments. A very important part of the workshop was the two way communication with the participants on their growth and their assessments. PPT encouraged the women to share their opinions about photography and the types of documentation they find interesting and pushed them to pursue their own style.
The leading aspects of the initiative are as follows:
  1. Educate- To educate the women on various aspects of photography and develop their skills so that it can be used as a source of their income.
  2. Inculcate-To help the women dig deep into their past experiences and inculcate them with self confidence and self-reliance.
  3. Nurture-To nurture the women into competent photographers.
  4. Exhibit- To exhibit the work of the participants and provide them platforms where they can apply the knowledge they’ve learnt.
“When I went to the market area to take photographs, everyone was staring at me. I was aware that I was attracting a lot of attention, but I decided to ignore it all. The shopkeepers in the market were wondering what a woman wearing a naqaab was doing with a camera, in the middle of the street. Some of them even asked me what was I doing. They asked me if I had the permission to take photographs, but when I retorted back angrily as to why should I need permission and whose permission should I take to keep them quiet, they all went mum and got back to doing their own work. This whole episode reinstated my self confidence,”
– Rubina, Workshop Participant
The workshop included discussion of various thoughtful topics like domestic violence, Islamic culture, meaning of freedom, the practice of burqa veiling, gender relations and the society. These conversations were aimed to help the women dig deep into their conscience and further display it their photography. Having strong and successful women from PPT like Mexy Xavier and Jyotika Jain as mentors, the participants were motivated and stimulated by their work. It was interesting for the women to see how these women photographers not only thrived but flourished in a male dominate industry which in turn developed hope and ambition in the participants.
After the workshop, an exhibition title ‘Sculpting Lives’ was premiered at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival on the 6th of February 2010, with images on display outside Max Muellar in Kalaghoda. The images displayed were clicked by the participants during the course of the workshop. The exhibition helped the women to showcase their work in contemporary media and was seen by many people, including the film actress Shabana Azmi.
“The changes in me were very visible after the photography workshop by PPT with the help of Awaz-e-Niswan, I became very smart and confident and now I don’t wear a burka, I wear jeans-top and go to cover events. It sounds easy but for a girl like me who belongs to a Muslim family where a 5 years old girl is also supposed to wear burka, a girl who went to Awaz-e-Niswan after facing domestic violence in the year 2006. PPT’s workshop taught methat we can capture time and can keep it for years. Holding the camera and seeing the world through it is an experience, I just cannot explain in words. It gives me inner peace and all because of Sudharak sir.”


Workshop Participant
“It was a learning experience for both organisation. There were so many women who were lost in their lives but photography workshop gave meaning to them. Sudharak made them so comfortable that not even a single day they wanted to miss the classes. Women were there who walked 45 minutes just to attend the classes. These people were extremely happy after the Kalaghoda exhibition.”

Hasina Khan

Before PPT’s initiative, for the women, most of whom had never held a camera before in their lives, the word ‘photography’ meant little, if anything at all. Now, however, armed with their cameras, they have started to recognise their innate potential and fuelled social transformation.
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