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School Places, Safe Spaces

School Places, Safe Spaces

I came to the Girls Multi-Media Club thanks to a collaboration between McGill University and Girls Action Foundation. Dr. Claudia Mitchell, my PhD supervisor, is one of the world’s foremost scholars in the area of Girlhood studies so the partnership with Girls Action is fitting. On October 11, 2012 McGill hosted an international research symposium to coincide with the first International Day of the Girl Child. The symposium, Girlhood Studies and the Politics of Place: New Paradigms of Research exhibited HearSay, HereSay, HerSay, a photovoice project from the Girls Multi-Media Club. This club is in its second year and offers an opportunity for participants to learn about using multimedia and expressing ideas through these mediums. The members of this year’s Girls Multi-Media Club explored their school environment and using a ‘no faces’ approach took photos of the spaces they navigate every day. Their photos and corresponding captions tell stories about friendship, loss, and aspiration and shed light upon their realities and experiences. The "Photovoice" workshop module aimed to engage girls in discussions about the places they navigate (school, home, peer-spaces), feelings in those spaces, and what expectations exist in those spaces about their identities. 

"Taking a photo of a photo"

Photovoice is a process where people can use photography as a way to shed light and share insights about issues that have been traditionally ignored or misinterpreted. By having cameras in the hands of those most affected by those very issues, a visual record is produced and a potential to have a new narrative is reflected through photos, one that changes the way people think. As it pertains to girls, there is no shortage of media coverage regarding self-esteem, bullying and violence. There are assumptions that have been formed in the public sphere about the issues that girls face. So when the members of the Girls Multi-Media Club took to their school hallways and playgrounds to take photos, I was intrigued about what message the photos would bring back. Myself and my co-facilitator, Simone Viger of Girls Action Foundation, were not only overwhelmed by the amount of photos they took, but also by the way they navigated their space to share and talk about what was meaningful to them. In a way, photovoice, in terms of the exhibit and dissemination aspect, can be somewhat limiting. It was the process of collection and the discussions that took place around the photos that yielded rich discoveries around safety in school and the surrounding community. 

The photos on display represent a mere fraction of the photos taken (250) and were selected by the girls to share at the symposium. The girls lit up both behind and in front of the camera and equally illuminating are the stories behind the photos. The photos depict images from both inside and outside of the school and elicited narratives around broader themes relating to safety, gender, and belonging providing viewers with an opportunity to hear what girls have to say.