2018 Women Photograph Grant winners announced

Nadia Shira Cohen has won the $10,000 Women Photograph + Getty Images grant for her work on the abortion ban in El Salvador – and the five grants of $5000 awarded by Women Photograph with Nikon have gone to Tasneem Alsultan, Anna Boyiazis, Jess T. Dugan, Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen, and Etinosa Yvonne Osayimwen.

Nadia Shira Cohen’s series Yo No Di a Luz documents the effect that the complete ban on abortion in El Salvador has had on women – particularly on those forced to give birth to children conceived as a result of rape. “Doctors and nurses are trained to spy on women’s uteruses in public hospitals, reporting any suspicious alteration to the authorities and provoking criminal charges which can lead to between six months to seven years in prison,” writes Shira Cohen. “It is the poorer class of women who suffer the most as doctors in private hospitals are not required to report.

“Roughly 25 women are serving 30 to 40 year sentences on homicide charges for allegedly killing their newborn children. Although the women’s stories, most of which resemble premature births or late term miscarriages are often dismissed in trials, laced with moral accusations, based little on the constitution and scientific facts.”

“You see, it’s not about ego. It’s about having something to say, to do, to change. I’m excited and want to make a change. Being a woman doesn’t make me any less able to do so.” Aljazi Alhossaini, is a retired university admin and an artist and is one of many women running for municipal office for the first time. She is optimistic with the direction the government is now heading. “I’m realistic in acknowledging that the municipal elections aren’t as powerful as it should be, but it’s a step.” Dariya, Saudi Arabia © Tasneem Alsultan

Tasneem Alsultan’s work looks at women from Saudi Arabia’s Shiaa minority, in particular the activists and leaders who have risen to prominence in one of the world’s most conservative countries. Anna Boyiazis, meanwhile, has won another award for her highly successful project Finding Freedom in the Water, which documents young women in Zanzibar learning to swim for the first time, and which has also received a World Press Photo prize, and the Contemporary African Photography Prize.

Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen’s project looks at women held in detention in Venezuela – waiting for trial, but facing years of separation from their families and children in Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis. Etinosa Yvonne Osayimwen’s project features double exposures which convey the mental struggle faced by those who have suffered violence and trauma in Nigeria, while Jess T Dugan’s project Every Breath We Drew is a series of portraits – including self-portraits – engaging with gender, sexuality, and identity.

The Women Photograph initiative includes a database of 700 women documentary photographers based in 91 countries which is available to those who commission photography; its mission is “to shift the gender makeup of the photojournalism community and ensure that our industry’s chief storytellers are as diverse as the communities they hope to represent”.


August 2016-Suchitoto, El Salvador: Midwives Tomasa Torres and Lolita examine Maria Laura Linares, 24 years old and 18 weeks pregnant in the Mazatepeque Community. The midwifes’ association known as Rosa Andrades was formed in 1992, directly after the countries civil war came to a close. The founding midwifes are ex-guerillas who began assisting births out of necessity, sometimes while hiding in isolated mountainous regions and/or refugee camps in Honduras. They are 28-strong, working in 41 communities and municipalities in the region of Suchitoto. Although they still assist women who want to birth at home, the law now prohibits assisting in home births. The midwives focus their efforts on prenatal checkups in areas with difficult access to health centres and offer birth control at a discounted rate. Although they are not supported or recognised by the health ministry they serve as trusted members of their community. © Nadia Shira Cohen
Panchmalco, El Salvador-May 2016: Women of the community carry the Virgin Mary on their backs on a procession through the town of Panchimalco. The annual Palms Festival features a procession of the Virgin Mary through the town’s narrow streets and attracts people from all over the country as well as internationally who come to idolise her. © Nadia Shira Cohen
Planes de Renderos, El Salvador-May 2016: Idalia Alverado Sanchez and her husband Alex in an intimate moment awaiting the arrival of their first child together at the maternal waiting house which especially help women who come from areas without access to a nearby hospital wait out the end of the pregnancies in order to be close to a hospital and avoid complications. This is 21 year old Idalia’s 3rd child, the first of which she had when she was 13. © Nadia Shira Cohen
Planes de Renderos, El Salvador-May 2016: Abigail Sanches from San Luis Stalpa la Paz waiting to be examined at the maternal waiting house which especially helps women who come from areas without access to a nearby hospital wait out the end of the pregnancies in order to be close to a hospital and avoid complications. © Nadia Shira Cohen
San Salvador, El Salvador-May 2016: Maria Teresa Rivera reacts to her sentence annulment in Federal Court, chanting “Dios Existe” with a photo of her son, Oscar in her hand. The Supreme Court annulled María Teresa Rivera’s 40-year sentence for aggravated homicide of her prematurely born infant after she had already served four years in jail, barely able to see her son who was being taken care of by her ill mother in a violent gang-controlled neighbourhood. After a careful review of the medical evidence and all the facts, the judge stipulated that there was not enough proof of evidence that she intentionally killed her child and ordered that reparations be made to her for her time served. © Nadia Shira Cohen
San Salvador, El Salvador-May 2016: A pro-life wall mural adorns the wall in a side street on the main highway from Chalatenango to San Salvador. The society has over time embraced the abortion ban for the most part. © Nadia Shira Cohen
From the series Women in Prison © Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen
From the series Women in Prison © Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen
A young woman learns to float on Thursday, November 24, 2016 in the Indian Ocean off of Nungwi, Zanzibar. © Anna Boyiazis
Swim instructor Siti, 24, helps a girl float on Thursday, November 17, 2016 in the Indian Ocean off of Nungwi, Zanzibar. © Anna Boyiazis
Swim instructor Chema, 17, snaps her fingers as she disappears underwater on Wednesday, December 28, 2016 in Nungwi, Zanzibar. © Anna Boyiazis
Saihat, Saudi Arabia. Young Saudi women take a selfie, after they’ve won and been awarded at a local competition for reading books. © Tasneem Alsultan
“I’ve been working as a housemaid for the same family, for the last thirteen years. I choose to not take a holiday to Indonesia, so I’ve not visited my family, since I arrived. My salary was $160, but now I earn $400 a month. With this money, I’ve built a farm, and a big villa for my family. I retire next month. It’s funny, because I think I’m more wealthy than the old couple I look after in Saudi,” shared Suty, who is now 68 years old. Dammam, Saudi Arabia. © Tasneem Alsultan
© Jess T Dugan
© Jess T Dugan
© Jess T Dugan
© Etinosa Osayimwen
© Etinosa Osayimwen
© Etinosa Osayimwen
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy