Exhibition Displaying Stories of Women Inspiring Change Comes to Valletta This March

Exhibition Displaying Stories of Women Inspiring Change Comes to Valletta This March

The World Press Photo Foundation and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands present ‘Resilience – stories of women inspiring change’. The special exhibition showcases a selection of stories, awarded in the World Press Photo Contests from 2000 to 2021, that highlight the resilience and challenges of women, girls and communities around the world. Opening yesterday on International Women’s Day 2023, the exhibition is currently on display at Laparelli Gardens, Valletta Ditch until 28 March.

Gender equality and justice is a fundamental human right critical in supporting cohesive societies. Yet women around the world face deeply entrenched inequality and remain underrepresented in political and economic roles. Worldwide in 2021, women represented just 26.1% of some 35,500 parliament seats, only 22.6% of over 3,400 ministers, and 27% of all managerial positions. Violence against women prevails as a serious global health and protection issue. An estimated one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime.

This joint exhibition conveys the commitment of the Netherlands to women’s rights and gender equality and justice. Multiple voices, documented by 17 photographers of 13 different nationalities, offer insights into issues including sexism, gender-based violence, reproductive rights, and access to equal opportunities. The selection of stories explores how women and gender issues have evolved in the 21st century and how photojournalism has developed in the ways of portraying them.

Opening the exhibition, keynote speaker Renee Laiviera, Commissioner and Acting Executive Director of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, said “I think this is the right exhibition to remind us there are women who are not as privileged, who have to cope for themselves, for their loved ones, for their community. For these women it is not just about themselves, it is also about their community and how they are going to help their community move forward.” Speaking about Antonella from Argentina, the Commissioner said “She was ready to give up her most important asset as a young girl. She realized although she loved her long hair so much, her education was more important to her. And that is a very strong message for our young girls as well, who often don’t appreciate their opportunities.”

The Promise by Irina Werning, follows Antonella (12), who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and vowed to cut her long hair only when she could resume in-person classes at school, which had been suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Antonella said she was offering up her most precious treasure in exchange for getting her school life back. She cut her hair on 25 September 2021, on the weekend before she returned to classes.

Speaking about the series of photos Finding Freedom in the Water, Sweden’s Ambassador to Malta, Andrés Jato, said “It is remarkable in a sense that these women live on an island surrounded by the sea and beach and are not able to swim. It is the total opposite of empowerment in a sense.” He also highlighted the progress that these images represent: “you can change going on, these women are learning how to swim, and they are taught by women. It is change for women by women.”

Finding Freedom in the Water by Anna Boyiazis, shares the story of students from the Kijini Primary School who learn to swim and perform rescues, in the Indian Ocean, off of Muyuni Beach, Zanzibar. Traditionally, girls in the Zanzibar Archipelago have been discouraged from learning how to swim, largely due to the absence of modest swimwear. The Panje Project teaches local women and girls swimming skills in an effort to reduce high rates of drowning.

Ambassador of the Netherlands to Malta, Djoeke Adimi-Koekkoek, spoke about the dire situation in Yemen, depicted at the exhibition by Fatima who is fishing, traditionally a male occupation. “I have lived in Yemen for almost 13 years and the people of Yemen are so close to my heart. I have seen it, there is so much poverty and suffering by women in Yemen. On the index of where you have the worst chance of success born being a girl, Yemen has been listed as the worst country in the world in 2019.”

The other photograph pictured in the top banner from the series Crying for Freedom by Forough Alaei, who documented female fans who are restricted from entering football stadiums in Iran and disguised themselves as men to enter stadiums and to advocate for women’s rights.

Other photographers highlighted in this exhibition include Finbarr O’Reilly, Maika Elan, Catalina Martin-Chico, Pablo Tosco, Olivia Harris, Terrell Groggins, Jonathan Bachman, Heba Khamis, Daniel Berehulak, Robin Hammond, Diana Markosian, Jan Grarup, Magnus Wennman, and Fulvio Bugani.