“When we got involved in this research project, we could not anticipate how the pictures will be used. After coming to this exhibition, I am feeling so proud to see our pictures exhibited in such a big place!” – a 17-year-old girl from CLARISSA’s Children’s Research Group expressed her feelings at the inauguration ceremony of the photography exhibition on 10 February at Drik Gallery in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The CLARISSA programme in Bangladesh facilitates a Children’s Research Group (CRG) – 12 children trained by the team to undertake research on the impact of Covid-19 in their lives and in their neighbourhood. This training included capturing photos and sharing narratives. Children were then given mobile phones to capture photos of their neighbourhoods in pairs. The photo-taking process was fairly open, but were advised to consider any ethical issues before they took a photo. The children clicked random pictures of their surroundings that touched their emotions and those they found relevant to their experience of the pandemic.
After the data collection, children and adult researchers participated in two separate workshops to cluster the photos into themes, finalise the narratives and titles, and shortlist photos for the exhibition and the booklet. Through a participatory analysis process, the young researchers selected 40 pictures which were displayed at the exhibition.
Exhibition day inauguration ceremony – allowing children to share their emotions in a large group
The photo exhibition titled, “Our neighbourhoods, our lives: Impact of COVID-19 through children’s eyes” opened on 10 February 2023. The exhibition provided a unique perspective on the pandemic and highlighted the experiences of young researchers in an urban neighbourhood in Dhaka. At the inauguration, the British High Commissioner, Robert C. Dickson, viewed the exhibition and praised the bravery and artistic talents of the children. Martin Swinchatt, the representative of Terre des hommes, gave an opening speech at the event. As special guests, Tahera Jabeen, the Social Development Advisor of the British High Commission, and Munira Murshed Munni, a freelance photographer and the General Secretary of the Children’s Film Society, also shared their uplifting remarks. Dr. Marina Apgar, the CLARISSA consortium MEL Lead at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), Dr. Mieke Snijder, Research Fellow at the IDS, and Helen Veitch, the consortium Advocacy Lead at the Consortium for Street Children were present at the ceremony along with the country team members. After the inauguration ceremony, copies of the booklet were handed over to the young researchers.
Supporting children to share their thoughts shows them adults care about their views
“Please come (addressing the guests), I will show you my photo, see I clicked this one. You can only see some household tools here, but there is a tormenting story behind this. You know there was a girl in our community who was rudely beaten by her house owner, I found her in my father’s shop. I asked my father why she is looking so pale. Father replied, her house owner beat her, forced her to eat bathroom cleaner and sanitiser and beat her through this wire. It touched me and I went to her house. This happened during Covid lockdown”. The photo is a symbolic one and explains a lot, stunning the guests. Apart from this photo, other photos also made the guests ponder and reflect since they all have a touching stories.
While a few children were sharing their photovoice research experience, a child burst into tears as she couldn’t believe her photos are exhibiting in such a renowned gallery. Children and organizers supported the child, and once she felt comfortable she shared her thoughts with the audience. At that moment the whole crowd became quiet, with the emotional moment silently telling the audience that “give the underprivileged children a chance and see what potential they have. Guide these children from the side-lines, then they will also get the chance to taste the high peak of success”.
Community exhibition: Children get the chance to show their work to their parents and neighbours
“You know these photos look livelier here. They look so beautiful here, now we can relate it with the area”, an 18-year-old member of the children’s research group expressed after watching the same photos exhibited in their community.
CLARISSA organized another exhibition of the same photos on 19th February at the Gajmohol playground with the aim of demonstrating the work of the young researchers to their parents, family members, peers and community members. At the community exhibition opening event, Barbara Hintermaan, General Director of Terre des hommes, and Dorina Ardeleanu, Head of operations for Europe, Asia, and Latin America paid a visit. Here, they spoke with the young researchers and encouraged the children’s work.
The photos speak and point towards a bitter truth that society has ignored. The children’s critical views regarding the pandemic are enormous. The news has shown us life and job loss, restrictions, and lockdown but the children have shown us the impact and suffering caused by Covid-19 in their daily life. How does it feel when lockdown stops clearers from entering the community to pick up the rubbish/dust? What happened when raw leather was left at the side of the factory without taking any further steps to process them? How did lockdown make a child realize her father’s hard work for the family? The pictures helped us to understand the emotions that the children’s families or community members went through during the crisis period.