PHOTOVOICE IRAQ: Picturing Change will teach twenty young Iraqis (ages 10-25) to use the power of photography and their own voices to raise public awareness and reach decision makers about the issues that they care most about.
Picturing Change will use photovoice, a method that combines photography with community-based social action. For 8 weeks, a diverse group of Iraqi youth will use cameras and personal narratives to explore how Iraq has changed, and how that change is affecting their lives and future aspirations. Then, they will photograph and write about the positive change that they hope to see within their lifetimes, and how they see themselves being a part of that change.
We will present the youths' findings at a public exhibition in Iraq, inviting top policy-makers, education officials, youth organizations, and local and regional major media like al-Jazeera. Their video introductions, photographs, and personal narratives will also be showcased online at StoriesFrom.us, a new, open platform for digital storytelling developed by The Tiziano Project.
Photovoice has already transformed lives and empowered youth all over the world. With Picturing Change, EPIC is taking photovoice to Iraq.
Here’s a real example of how photovoice has empowered young people in the US.
Meet Alycia. When she took this photo, she was a high school junior from Ohio. Known to be a school troublemaker, often disrupting class and distracting others, Alycia was invited to participate in a photovoice project. She was asked to use photographs and written reflections to answer these questions:
(1) What is the purpose of school?
(2) What impedes your success in school?
(3) What supports your success in school?
This is how Alycia answered question number (3):
"This picture makes me think of how you have one chance at life. You can't miss your one shot. For most people if you mess up or miss your shot, you get a second chance. In my lifestyle it's a hit or miss proposition. That's why I go to school, education is something that I need to succeed in my life. Instead of horseplaying I'd rather get it done and over with so I can move on to bigger and better things. I need to succeed in life to prove to everyone who has ever done me wrong, that I am independent and just fine without them." - Alycia
Alycia proved to be a talented photographer. Through photovoice, she began to reflect and articulate why school actually did matter to her. Alycia shared her estrangement from a mother she adored and how she dutifully served as a role model to her younger siblings. She developed a positive attitude and created a plan for her success in school. In short, Alycia began picturing change for herself and her future.
The Panoramic View
Today 60% of Iraqis are under the age of 25. This youth generation has seen a regime fall, lived through wars and sanctions, and experienced the energy of the Arab Spring. Many of them have experienced violence firsthand. Yet despite all that they have gone through, they are looking forward.
The Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting peace and empowering youth in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Last year, we carried out our first field project: the Iraqi Youth Hike. Erik, our executive director, set out with a diverse group of young, would-be hikers from Kirkuk. For five days, the group explored the beautiful mountains of Northern Iraq learning about the importance of environmental stewardship. They traveled together, learned together, grew together, and left with unforgettable memories.
Here is a sample of what Iraqi Youth Hike participants said about their experience:
“The multiple languages and nationalities taught me many things about our community.”
– Ali, 22
“The best part was spending peaceful time with the teachers and students. There was no discrimination or political issues between us. The Iraqi Youth Hike taught us about nature and protecting the environment. At the same time, we had fun!” – Ahmed, 17
“I loved hiking and the spirit of teamwork!” – Mohammed, 24
The Iraqi Youth Hike taught EPIC just as much as it taught the hikers: we gained valuable experience working on the ground with the young people of Iraq. The personal connections that we made were incredibly rewarding. In a country where more than half the population is under 25, the future lies in the hands of these young people. To hear and understand their voices is crucial.
Ready for the Close-Up?
What is the plan for Picturing Change?
We're mentoring twenty students — ages 10-25 from middle schools, high schools, vocational schools and universities — and teaching them in the photovoice technique. With the cameras we provide, the youth participants will be asked to express their point of view by taking photographs, discussing them together, and developing personal narratives to go with their photos. Specifically, they will use photography and written reflections to answer the following questions:
(1) How has Iraq changed over the years? How are those changes affecting your life and your plans for the future?
(2) What positive change do you hope to see within your lifetime?
(3) How do you see yourself being a part of that positive change?
For eight weeks, the youth participants will meet weekly with their mentors to develop their body of photographic work and narratives.
We will present the youths' findings at a public exhibition in Iraq, inviting top policy-makers, education officials, youth organizations, and local and regional media. Online, their findings will be available around the world thanks to StoriesFrom.us, an open platform for digital storytelling developed by our friends at The Tiziano Project. Through StoriesFrom.us, you will be able to watch short video introductions to each of the youth participants, see their photographs, and read written reflections. We will also seek to arrange further exhibits, and write about the experience and lessons learned from our piloting of photovoice in Iraq.
The results will be a new narrative — a story about young people and their aspirations. The results will be informative. The results will be EPIC.
We'll use the Indiegogo funds to make this 8-week project a reality.
Our project team has spent the year researching photovoice, designing the project, developing logistics, and connecting with local partners, photographers, and educators. After extensive consultations with our board of directors, advisors, and Iraqi colleagues, we’re ready to roll. The final step is to implement the project.
Here's the budget breakdown for 8 weeks of Picturing Change with 20 students:
- Cameras and equipment
- Interpreters and translation of materials
- Website for online gallery
- Project coordination, oversight, monitoring and evaluation
- Stipends and training program for mentors
- Outreach and selection of participants
- Opening program, midterm event and closing ceremony for participants
- International travel, meals & lodging for project coordinator
- Public exhibition in Iraq and media outreach
Your money will NOT go toward:
- Indirect costs (We've got those covered)
- Security contractors (from our experience, there is far more security in making friends and winning the support of the communities that we work with in Iraq than men with guns and up-armored Humvees)
This project is scalable. If we exceed our funding goal, we will have the flexibility to add more participants and mentors or extend the program beyond 8 weeks. More importantly, additional funds will allow us to present the youths' photography and findings to a wider audience in Iraq and the region, further raising awareness about the needs and aspirations of young people in the Middle East.
We want to provide young people in Iraq with the opportunity for self-discovery and empowerment. Imagine reaching young people affected by years of war, loss, and uncertainty, and teaching them to recognize the power of their voices to promote peace and social change in Iraq.
We hope you will help us in this storytelling adventure. If we are successful, you will have been a part of a novel, exciting, and important project. What's more, you will be able to see the end result! Picturing Change will be exhibited in an online gallery, so this new narrative of Iraq can spread the world over.
"Without you, there can be no Picturing Change. Join us in becoming part of something truly epic!" -- Erik Gustafson
To the right, check out the perks that we have planned for supporters like you.
From everyone here at EPIC, we hope that you are as excited as we are to get this project indiegogo-going! Together, we can make Picturing Change a reality.
Special Thanks to our friends and partners!
The Tiziano Project provides community members in conflict, post-conflict, and underreported regions with equipment, training, and affiliations necessary to tell their stories and improve their lives. With funding from the Knight Foundation, The Tiziano Project developed StoriesFrom.us, an open platform for digital storytelling and community documentaries. We are excited to be working with our friends at The Tiziano Project, and we're exploring opportunities for further collaborations.
Freelance photographer Henry Arvidsson spent five years in Iraq during the early '90s, and returned in 2011 to document life in Baghdad. He was kind enough to let us use some of our favorites of his photos as our campaign imagery. You can find his collections at www.henryarvidsson.com.
Like the photography that you see in the video? Many of the photographs are the work of Metrography, Iraq's first independent photo agency. Learn more at www.metrography.photoshelter.com
Like the song from the video? It's Stephan Said's new single "Take a Stand," remixed by Beatnick K-Salaam! Stephan is an American singer-songwriter, rapper, writer, and global human rights activist of Iraqi and Austrian descent. Learn more about Stephan and his organization "difrent" at www.stephansaid.com!
Thanks to Stephen McNally of Sammler Street Films for shooting and editing our video! If you're in the DC area, and want a hard working professional who works rain or shine (specifically record breaking heat and torrential downpours) to shoot a short video for you, we can't recommend Steve more highly! Reach him at www.sammlerstreetfilms.com
Team on This Campaign:
Idriss Al Rifai
Project Design Advisor