Follow us on a behind-the-scenes look of this new collection of editorial images capturing the power and vibrancy of women and girls in two regions of the world: Bihar, India; and Louisiana and Mississippi in the United States. The collection’s more than 300 photographs will be made available free of charge for non-commercial editorial use at ImagesOfEmpowerment.org.
Every woman and girl—no matter where she lives in the world—has the right to live with dignity and have a voice in decisions that affect her body and her life.
Dozens of women, girls, and reproductive health leaders shared their lives with us for a new collection of photographs. They did so to change the unjust perceptions of them and their communities.
Often depicted by deprivation and despair, their realities offer stark contrasts: women and girls in India and across the southern United States, in predominantly low-income and communities of color, are in leadership roles, exercising their choices and advocating for rights.
These women are neighborhood role models, taking control of their reproductive health while empowering others. It’s undeniable–these are strong, bold, and inspiring individuals.
The organizations and individuals photographed are at the nexus of quality reproductive health information and services including family planning, contraceptive choices, safe abortion care, and sexuality education for women and youth.
As active participants in their communities, these individuals invited us into their lives to document their public and private journeys. This project focuses on women and girls accessing and providing quality reproductive health information and services, and being empowered to make decisions about their own bodies.
Whether they are teaching or joining sexuality education classes, advocating for change and opportunity, or visiting their service providers, these individuals are using their voices and power to unite women and girls across the communities they call home.
Award-winning photographer Nina Robinson focuses on telling the stories of underrepresented communities by “aiming to break the visual prejudices of race, class, age, and gender.”
This project took her to Louisiana and Mississippi in the southern United States. These two states have some of the strictest restrictions in the country on sexuality education, access to contraception, and abortion services.
There Nina found that where there is necessity, there too are women making their own choices, armed with knowledge and changemakers around them to support their decisions.
While we live in a country based on rights and freedoms, including freedom of choice, too many of our nation’s women and girls are denied their rights to quality sexual and reproductive health care. They’re often taught biased information; face barriers like high costs, far travel distances to clinics, and limited choices; and are refused medical care.
Quality sexual and reproductive health care is centered around a woman’s life and goals, available without judgement, and free of stigma. It’s care where women are treated with respect and dignity.
From Clarksdale and Clarkson, to Jackson and Tunica, to New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Nina captured women and girls in control of their bodies and choices, and helping others harness the power to do the same. In Louisiana, she visited Ashé Cultural Arts Center, the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies, the Louisiana Public Health Institute, Louisiana State University, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, and Total Community Action Inc. In Mississippi, Faith in Women, Jackson Women’s Health Center, Mississippi Youth Council, My Brother’s Keeper, Open Arms Healthcare Center, and Teen Health Mississippi. She also met dozens of community members impacted by these organizations’ work along the way.
I was overwhelmed at the compassion, the care, and courage that I witnessed…The people I worked with are the heart and soul of their organizations and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to highlight these grassroots organizations in the fight for proper reproductive health education and rights.
– Nina Robinson
Quality care is centered around women and girls and their ambitions–she decides whether and when to have children. She chooses from a full range of contraceptive options and can obtain safe and legal abortion and follow-up care without stigma, fear, or interference.
The Indian state of Bihar, which is overwhelmingly rural, has the largest population of people under the age of 25 in the country. It lags behind many other Indian states in social and economic development, but that hasn’t stopped Bihari women and girls from taking control of their reproductive health and decision-making.
Award-winning photojournalist Paula Bronstein journeyed to Bihar to capture their story of leadership, learning, and perseverance.
While in Bihar, Paula spent time in the communities where Abt Associates, the Centre for Catalyzing Change, CorStone, Feminist Approach to Technology, Ipas Development Foundation, and Pathfinder International work. Her photographs show how these organizations and community leaders are providing comprehensive sexuality education and quality reproductive health care, and are empowering women, youth, and families to take control of their future.
I had the incredible pleasure to meet Kamini Kumari. Kamini is a midwife nurse in a very small rural clinic giving first hand medical care to women who are pregnant. There were so many women lining up to see her. She had so much respect for the job she did, with the very little that she had. Kamini had a real sense of commitment and it was evident in every photograph I took of her.
– Paula Bronstein
She also witnessed how empowering girls through technology gives them resources and a safe space to learn about computers and photography while challenging gender norms and negotiating their place within their community.
Let others know about the women creating a positive and authentic counterpoint to more common images of disease and deprivation by sharing this photo essay and following us on social media for updates, stories, and more Images of Empowerment news.
About the collection: The David and Lucile Packard Foundation partnered with Getty Images and the Verbatim Agency award-winning photojournalists Paula Bronstein and Nina Robinson to develop this new photo collection, Images of Empowerment: Raising Her Voice. Around 300 photographs will be made available free of charge for non-commercial editorial use at www.ImagesOfEmpowerment.org. The collection builds upon the Images of Empowerment photo resource launched by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Getty Images in 2015.
Photos courtesy of Paula Bronstein, Nina Robinson, and The Verbatim Agency/Getty Images. Some rights reserved.