For two weeks in August 2014, nine members of a rural community in Phulpingkot, Sindhupalchok swapped their normal routines for photography workshops and learned to use digital cameras to capture beautiful and meaningful photographs to share their perspective on the state of maternal healthcare in their community.
The photo stories created by the seven women and two men who took part will be shown to public audiences and policy makers in the UK, Nepal and around the world to increase awareness of the state of maternal healthcare in rural Nepal, and the challenges facing future improvement, according to a statement released Sunday, August 24.
"Their input will be valuable in informing future activities and policies around maternal health in rural areas. This is the Nepal phase of a project that is assessing the impact of international development across the world," says Matt Daw, the Project Manager of UK charity PhotoVoice that conducted the workshops in Nepal.
Similar workshops have already taken place in Ghana, Tunisia, China, Peru and Ethiopia, each time supporting local community members to explore a different area of development through photographs and their own words, Daw adds.
The project, Development Progress (www.developmentprogress.org), aims to show that international development is having a real impact on people’s lives, by putting those people at the grassroots of the development process in each country at the centre of the project. Their voices are the most important in assessing how much they feel their lives have been affected, and what activities, policies and agencies have contributed to that change.
The Development Progress project is led by UK think-tank the Overseas Development Institute that has partnered with participatory photography charity PhotoVoice to run these workshops and ensure that the voices of community members are heard around the issues that affect them the most.
In order to access the community, and the most relevant voices within it, PhotoVoice partnered with an inspiring Nepali non-government organization, PHASE Nepal (http://phasenepal.org/) that has been working in Phulpingkot for years, and has contributed enormously to the standard of maternal healthcare available through providing maternal health specialists to provide on-the-spot healthcare to pregnant women and new mothers, and providing training for community health volunteers and mothers groups to complement government initiatives, adds the statement.
PHASE advertised the workshops in the community and assembled a group of people who were keen to contribute their perspectives, and a PHASE Nepal staff member from the Kathmandu Office accompanied PhotoVoice’s team to translate and assist with the workshops.
The project in Phulpingkot involved two NGO maternal healthcare professionals, the VDC Head, a Female Community healthcare Volunteer, Manager of a local Credit and Savings Cooperative for mothers, and teachers from the local schools with families of their own. All nine participants were given photography training by professional photographers and were supported to tell the story they felt was most important when considering how maternal healthcare has changed in their lifetime, and what issues they feel still exist that need to be addressed. The cameras used for the project have all been left in Phulpingkot as a resource for the community, and to ensure that those trained can continue to enjoy practising their new photography skills.
Topics raised in the photo stories from Phulpingkot include the positive impact of government health education in the curriculum, the work of the health post staff and Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) in educating people about good practices in maternal health and early childcare, and the role of credit cooperatives in helping to ensure even subsistence farmers have money to fall back on to get the care and advice needed in pregnancy and childbirth, says Daw.
"The issues raised include the barriers presented by poverty and mountainous terrain that prevent women from accessing healthcare and practising good hygiene even when they know about its importance."