Picture Credit: Greeshma Patel
India has the largest free, government run early childhood care and education system in the world, operating in every state, and serving 9.4 lakh children yearly. The primary mission of the Integrated Child Development Services scheme (ICDS) is to combat childhood hunger, an issue that has been dominating recent news, particularly as parliament begins the process of implementing the Food Bill. The system is run by about one lakh anganwadi workers and helpers, women recruited from poor communities to run anganwadi centers where mothers and children can receive nonformal education and access to free rations and hot meals. Although they are key to India’s grassroots fight against poverty, these women are rarely mentioned or seen – in fact, when it comes to debates about poverty, education, and hunger, they are almost entirely invisible.
Picturing Change is a participatory photo project designed to combat this invisibility by giving anganwadi workers the tools to tell their own stories, through their own eyes, and on their own terms. Fulbright Scholar Mathangi Subramanian and professional photographer Greeshma Patel raised money for the cameras through crowdsourcing and a small grant from the Fulbright Foundation. Over the course of two months, they trained five anganwadi workers – Geetha, Sujatha, Sumitra, Varalakshmi, and Yashoda – in photography and visual storytelling. The results are a series of photos that will be exhibited through our lead partner, Thalam gallery, in Bangalore from September 28 – October 12, 2013.
The women not only produced the photos, they also curated the exhibit, identifying five themes that underpin their photostories: preschool, childhood malnutrition, home visits, health, and meetings / administration. The photos in each theme give an overview of the services anganwadis provide, educating the general public both about the work anganwadi workers do, and the lived realities of poor children in Bangalore’s slums.
Canvera has supported this effort by donating photobooks capturing the collection, which will be distributed to donors and the participants. Canvera will also be providing photobook websites so that these pictures can be viewed online even after the exhibit closes.
More details on this project coming up soon!