Photographers' Blog

Mothers and Daughters – Hopes and Dreams

By Reuters Photographers

On March 8 activists will celebrate International Women’s Day, which dates back to the early 20th Century and has been observed by the United Nations since 1975.

In the run-up to the event, Reuters photographers in countries around the globe took a series of portraits of women and their daughters.

They asked each mother what her profession was, at what age she had finished education, and what she wanted her daughter to become when she grew up.

They also asked each daughter at what age she would finish education and what she wanted to do in the future. The series of images they produced offers an insight into the lives of women and girls around the world.

Photographed by Feisal Omar, Somalia

Saciido Sheik Yacquub, 34, poses for a picture with her daughter Faadumo Subeer Mohamed, 13, at their home in a camp for internally displaced people in Mogadishu.

Banished once a month

Legudsen Village, Nepal

By Navesh Chitrakar

“No, I will not send my daughters to practice chaupadi”, said 22-year-old Muna Devi Saud as she stood outside her house in the hills of Legudsen Village – one of many small settlements in the remote Achham District of far western Nepal.

In isolated regions like this, chaupadi has been a custom for centuries. But those from Nepal’s cities or from abroad often don’t know what it means.

Chaupadi is the practice of treating women as impure and untouchable when they menstruate. When they go through their monthly cycle, they are not allowed to enter a house or pass by a temple. They cannot use public water sources, touch livestock, attend social events like weddings, or touch others. When they are served food, the person who gives it to them will not even touch the dish. And at night, they are not allowed to sleep in their homes – instead they have to stay in sheds or outbuildings, often with no proper windows or doors.

Life on the margins in Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan

By Zohra Bensemra

There are so many slums in Pakistan, and they can be home to all sorts of communities – Christians, Shi’ites, Afghan refugees, or Pakistanis fleeing violence or seeking jobs.

But whatever their background, they all face the same struggles in their daily lives. The divisions of religion and nationality are less important than finding clean water, a space to study, or a battered toy for a young child to play with.

Working in these areas requires great respect for the residents, and the photographer must be aware of cultural taboos.

Defiant smokers of London

London, England

By Olivia Harris

Smokers in dressing gowns and slippers, some in wheelchairs or with drips, are a common site gathered outside hospitals in Britain.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is proposing to ‘end this terrible spectacle’ and ban smoking and smoking shelters from hospital grounds. For patients determined to smoke, this means moving further away from the hospital.

The defiant women I met yesterday smoking outside the hospital blamed the doctors and nurses. “They’d say an ingrown toenail was due to my smoking, if it suited them,” insisted one woman who wouldn’t be photographed but who was in hospital for a smoking-related disease. Her friend Margaret, who’s smoked for 40 years, whispered to me that her voice box will be removed in a fortnight. She said sadly that she’s having an awful time and just wants to enjoy her cigarettes in peace.

Courage in the face of brutality

San Salvador, El Salvador

By Ulises Rodriguez

The clock on the wall marked four in the morning. It was a cold and wet Saturday in July, but I was sitting in the warm offices of El Salvador’s Red Cross. Suddenly, the relative calm and silence in the emergency unit was interrupted when the phone rang. The loud noise made me jump. The phone operator said: “What is your name? If you don’t identify yourself, we can’t help you.”

I went to the operator and asked him what was happening. He said that there had been a report of a woman who had been beaten, raped several times and then left for dead in a ditch. He said that they would take her to hospital because of the severity of her injuries and I asked to go along.

When I got to where she had been found, I saw a woman dressed in a baby blue dress that was dirty all over, with a face disfigured by the blows she had received. She was disoriented and her gaze seemed lost in a void. She kept on repeating that her name was Claudia.

Opening a blind eye to femicide

Guatemala City, Guatemala

By Jorge Dan Lopez

Violence and death are always present and tangible in Guatemala. The population seems to accept it as normal, even more so when women are the victims. In many cases, society simply ignores it, sits in silence or turns a blind eye.

Many men treat women as if they have no rights, thinking it unusual that someone should be punished or fined for beating, raping or killing them.

In Guatemala, violence against women generally starts behind the walls of their own homes. The aggressors in most cases are the men closest to them: fathers, brothers, cousins and partners.

Growing up in the European Parliament

Strasbourg, France

By Vincent Kessler

To be totally honest I didn’t see Vittoria at first glance when I took pictures of her and her mother, Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli, for the first time on September 22, 2010.

The European Parliament plenary room is a giant hemicycle for the 766 MEP’s elected from the twenty-eight Member States of the enlarged European Union. It’s not easy to see in detail what’s going on with each lawmaker especially when seated in the back rows, and when your shooting position is on a 10-meter-high balcony.

But thanks to a telephone call from my friend and Reuters journalist Gilbert Reilhac, who was following the voting session on the internal TV service of the parliament, and thanks to a 400mm lens and converters, I spotted her for the first time. I did not know it at the time but she was then only a few weeks old. The pictures were widely used by newspapers and online sites.

Abortion: After the decision

New York City, New York

By Allison Joyce

I had been trying to think how to tell the story of abortion in photos for a while. Over the past few years the U.S. has seen new laws limiting abortions enacted and politicians speaking out for and against abortion.

Unless it’s on a political level, it’s still taboo in our society to discuss abortion. I was surprised when I started talking openly with my friends and colleagues about abortion how many of them had had one themselves. I hadn’t known that 40 percent of American women will have an abortion during their lifetimes. While it’s a personal and private experience, there are 45 million women in America who share in it, and it shouldn’t be a shameful secret. The silence creates a stigma that prevents a meaningful discussion and understanding in the national debate and dialogue.

These women are your mothers, sisters, friends, wives, neighbors, grandmothers, colleagues and daughters. These are real people, not an abstract issue.

The women of China’s workforce

Shanghai, China

By Aly Song

Sometimes a good story comes naturally.

As a follow-up to China’s mighty urbanization policy, I gained access to a huge construction site within a new residential development zone some 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Shanghai’s city center. My original plan was to photograph the lives of Chinese migrant workers at night. I imagined that they would probably go to some colorful places and do some interesting things after nightfall. But I was completely wrong – every day they went straight back to their dormitories, where they would eat, chat, play some poker, probably watch an outdoor movie once a month, and that’s it!

I was about to give up when I noticed that there were many women at the dormitories. I got curious so I asked other workers: “Your boss has no problem having wives living here too?” One of them replied: “They also work here at the construction site.” To be honest, I was very surprised because in my mind, construction work has always been a job for men.

From that moment, it was natural that I turned my camera to the female workers. I went up to them, introduced myself, and asked for their permission to document their lives for a couple of days. I was lucky that the women and their husbands were all very nice.

Underground with Bosnia’s women miners

Breza, Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Dado Ruvic

Since I started photography, miners have always been an attractive subject matter for me. They provide all photographic elements in one place. Throughout the years, I have often worked on stories below ground for the local newspaper, spending shifts with miners. As March 8th neared, I came up with the idea to do something different related to International Women’s Day. The story, which I had planned a few years earlier but had no reason to shoot, was now ready: Women miners.

GALLERY: LONE FEMALE MINERS OF BOSNIA

One morning I went into the Breza mine and the first person that greeted me at the door was a very strong, smiling woman named Sakiba. I felt the spirit of mining through her. After she finished the morning’s preparation and made a few phone calls, we went to the change rooms. After I awkwardly donned mining clothes, our day started, and a crowd of dirty particles were smiling on my camera. At the entrance to the pit, there was a second miner Šemsa, waiting for us.

Both women have been working in the mine for over 20 years. Every wall, every pillar, every soul in this mine politely bowed to them. We descended in the elevator to about 400 meters below ground. About one year ago a major fire broke out in the mine and one of their friends died. During the time we spent together Šemsa said she finds it difficult to descend into the pit — it stirs very bad memories that are hard to deal with. However, she comforted herself in believing that death was meant for everyone, including her friend.