How to tell a story: participatory photo project in Pakistan

Students share their photos from the participatory photo project in Pakistan, 2017. WaterAid/Sibtain Haider

Good hygiene is a life-saver. Washing our hands with soap can cut cases of diarrhoea almost in half, saving hundreds of lives every single day. But it’s not exactly a topic that grabs headlines. So how do we make hygiene education more interesting?

One way is to give people the tools to tell their own stories. WaterAid Pakistan recently hosted two participatory photo workshops. The aim was to get students to share their experiences with water, sanitation and hygiene through photographing and interviewing each other.

Students were taught camera skills and the art of story-telling, and the photos created were displayed at exhibitions in order to build awareness in the wider community.

These are their stories.

'Salma and Shahla' – by Misbah

Misbah holds up a photo of Salma and Shahla that she took during the participatory photo project in Pakistan, 2017.WaterAid/Sibtain Haider
Misbah holds up a photo of Salma and Shahla that she took during the participatory photo project in Pakistan, 2017.

"My name is Misbah and I am going to tell you about two good friends, Salma and Shahla.

Both of them don’t have toilets in their homes. Their families go to the fields for their elimination needs. One day when they came to my house to use our toilet, I took their photos and asked them how would they have felt if they had toilets in their homes.

Going outside to relieve ourselves is a problem. Sometimes we come across people sitting in the fields using drugs. This is scary as anything can happen. If we had a toilet in our home, it would make our lives a lot easier.

Salma’s father doesn’t earn and Shahla’s family is very poor. Her father’s earning is barely sufficient for their day to day needs, let alone constructing a toilet in their house. She also said that her parents feel isolated because of their poverty."

'Sonia' – by Rimsha 

A photo of Sonia at school, taken by Rimsha in Pakistan, 2017.WaterAid/Rimsha
A photo of Sonia at school, taken by Rimsha in Pakistan, 2017.

"Her name is Sonia. She was in class 6 when she first had her periods. She didn't come to school as there were no girls' friendly toilet and there were no sanitary products available in the school either. As a result of missing the school, she was falling behind in her studies.

Sonia was very happy when Kubra baji came to conduct hygiene sessions and told the students that a girls’ friendly toilet was being constructed in the school.

The girls’ friendly toilet in Sonia’s school has a mirror, a safe place to keep and change sanitary products and a proper handwashing station. She can now look in the mirror for any stains on her cloth during her periods. This is a source of relief as it saves her from any embarrassment."

Ishqeen – by Uzma

Ishqeen washing hands in her house in a village in Pakistan.WaterAid/Uzma
Ishqeen washing her hands out her house in a village in Punjab Province, Pakistan.

"She is a 7 year old girl named Ishqueen. One day, she came back from the toilet without washing her hands with soap as usual and went to play with her friends.

When she returned home, she was not feeling well. When her dad inquired about her health, she complained of stomach ache. Her father asked her if she washed her hands with soap after using the toilet and her reply was in negative.

Her dad said to her 'If you had washed your hands with soap every time after using the toilet, you would never have fallen sick. You should never forget to wash your hands after using the toilet in future.' Since then, Ishqeen never forgets to wash her hands with soap after using the toilet."