School girls in Ramadi, Iraq, affected by war explore visual storytelling in collaboration with Canon Europe and the International Committee of the Red Cross

Geneva/Ramadi (ICRC/Canon) - The photos: A rusted-out car in rubble. A collapsed bridge. Tattered Iraqi flags. A portrait of a younger sister, a tight smile on her lips.

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The photographers: School girls aged 12-18 in the Iraqi city of Ramadi who have seen a portion of their childhood turned upside down when they and their families were forced to flee war.

The sponsors: The International Committee of the Red Cross and Canon, who partnered to create a unique photography workshop to build tighter relationships with communities affected by conflict and violence.

The five-day workshop at Al-Rajaa School, which was severely damaged during fighting in the country, was the first attempt between the ICRC and Canon to use photography as a means to better understand teenagers’ experiences during and after the destruction of Ramadi.

Creative outlets – photography included – are powerful tools to equip young people to drive change and overcome trauma.

“I like photography because it reflects the point of view of other people. When I see a photo, I can sense others’ perspective on things, and discover a side of their personality that I didn’t know.” said 17-year-old Shifaa Adballah Ahmed, one of the participants in the workshop.

The images taken by the schoolgirls will be shown from 3rd September at Visa pour l’Image, one of the world’s leading photojournalism festivals, as part of Canon’s line-up of events for the festival and its commitment to championing the role photography plays in telling the stories that need to be told. The imagery will also be shared on ICRC’s and Canon’s social media channels.

The ICRC-Canon collaboration is built on Canon’s Young People Programme, which seeks to contribute towards the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by giving young people a voice and empowering them to drive change through visual storytelling. The ICRC used its unique access in conflict-affected countries, enabling Canon to give the schoolgirls an opportunity to talk about the issues that affect their futures; providing them with the tools and coaching to do this. The project focused on SDG 4 -- quality education -- and SDG 5 – gender equality – but also on highlighting the ways girls’ education has a positive impact on a community.

“Conflict has devastating impacts on communities and especially on children. This photography project gave these girls an opportunity to view and share their daily life through a creative lens, opening a channel of hope and creativity while moving away from violence and displacement,” said the ICRC’s head of delegation in Iraq, Katharina Ritz. “The girls’ excitement for this project was a vivid symbol of how urban warfare can damage school buildings but can’t extinguish the desire for education and a better future.”

“I feel it’s important to inspire younger generations with the power of photography and show how it can be used as an outlet to daily life,” said Mashid Mohadjerin, the Canon Ambassador who held the workshop.” These girls have been through a lot in their lives and I feel privileged to have given them an opportunity to express themselves in a way they’ve never been able to before. It’s also very important to gain new perspectives on stories in these regions and there is something unique that a younger person can bring to the conversation”

“Giving young people an outlet to share their views and stories is really important to us and we believe imaging is a powerful tool to grow awareness of the issues being faced,” said Stuart Poore, EMEA Director of Sustainability and Government Affairs at Canon Europe. “Everyone at Canon has been moved by the images taken by the schoolgirls in Iraq and the topics they address. We look forward to working closely with the ICRC to see how we can take this project further in the coming year.”

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