Power to the women

30 December 2012


BrandOutLoud’s project team just returned from a trip to Benin. Here co-founders Mark van Luyk and Judith Madigan worked on a video project commissioned by Both ENDS, a Dutch NGO striving for a green and equitable world.

This series of blogs is about their experiences during their time in Africa. Today is the last: power to the women.

While we were working on the video production, only men stepped forward. They did the talking, made the arrangements and appointments.

Engines of society

But it was always part of our mission to get at least one woman in front of the camera. It took a lot of effort. Not that we didn’t meet any. Actually, they are the engine of the society, feeding their families and themselves. You see them with kids on their backs in the fields, walking with heavy loads. Cleaning. Cooking. Always working.

During a debate with a visiting professor from India and the community, a shift occurred. Women - sitting at the back, second rank - were invited to tell their story and share ideas. Men had to step back as women were taking the floor. Stepping up, you could see them grow. Feeling equally important and part of the solution.

Women's empowerment

One of them was Antoinette. We knew she would be a great asset to our story. She agreed to help on our final day. For this interview we took her out of her regular surroundings to a quieter village up river. We hoped this would create the space to enable her speak freely.

This was not an unnecessary adjustment, in a community where women are of second rank and men complain that they have become so poor they "only" have one wife. Since when did polygamy become an index of poverty?

That interview with Antoinette was the icing on the cake. Her thoughts on women’s empowerment gave all of us goose bumps. She said: “Women push men. Men help us also. But if we women stand up, things happen.”

That’s the spirit!

Force des Femmes – a tribute

Our meeting with Antoinette was the reason to photograph her and other women in that village. As a tribute. Giving them the opportunity to step up - and in the spotlight. Showing their strength. Force des Femmes.

Powerful imagery is the key to succesful communication. Though what these wonderful and unqiue portraits meant for these women was priceless. In case of Antoinette, the image shows how she really feels: powerful and ready for action. 

For the complete series, go to our photography archive.