© Toluwanimi Onibokun
Threats to girls’ education — like poverty, war and gender discrimination — mean that over 130 million girls globally are unable to access education. Malala Yousafzai knows what it’s like to be denied the right to learn. That’s why she chose to dedicate her life to fighting for girls’ education and equality. In 2013, she co-founded Malala Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for the resources and policy changes needed to give all girls a secondary education, invests in local education leaders and lifts up the voices of girls fighting for change.
Such inspiring stories of hope, and courage are the linchpin of the Against All Odds Commission. For the first time ever, Malala Fund has partnered with 1854 to give three women photographers a £2,000 creative grant each that will be used to elevate inspiring stories from girls all around the world. Each month, from May to August, a photographer will be asked to explore this theme by focusing on a girl in their own region that exemplifies agency and determination, especially in the context of challenging circumstances.
The commission invites photographers who identify as women to apply by submitting any 10 images of their own work that they feel best resemble their personal photographic style. At the shortlist stage, a 100-word proposal will be requested in response to the theme, ones that symbolise the challenges, the empowerment, the power, the action along with information on the girl they are considering focusing on. The final shortlist and the girls they wish to photograph will be invited to the proposal development stage with Studio 1854 and Malala Fund. Winners of the commission will be selected by a panel of judges from 1854 and Malala Fund including Malala herself.
“Young women around the world are taking action to drive change. Against all odds they’re calling out injustices, challenging gender discrimination and tackling barriers to go to school. I want to amplify their stories.”
“To achieve progress for girls’ education and gender equality, our team at Malala Fund believes listening to girls, amplifying their voices and supporting their strategies for change is key,” says McKinley Tretler, Communications Manager at Malala Fund. “Young women are the experts of their own experience — and we’ll be looking for dynamic and dignified visuals that reflect that.”
With this in mind, each of the 3 bodies of work will approach the brief in truly nuanced and unique ways. Together, the series of images will create a single narrative, interweaving these stories from girls around the world. The campaign aims to celebrate and elevate girls voices — in all their diversity — who exhibit determination and a vision for themselves despite challenging circumstances. The subjects of the photos will also be given a platform to tell their own stories through Assembly, a digital publication for young women from Malala Fund. At the same time, the Against All Odds Commission is designed to support and provide a platform for women photographers from around the world.
Women photographers based in non-high-income countries and Malala Fund territories including Afghanistan, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey can apply for free. See full list here.
The collaboration builds on Malala Fund’s mission to give all girls access to 12 years of free, safe, quality education. The winning photographer will play a crucial part in helping this mission become a reality. If we can truly understand why education matters to us all, and what we can do to help others access it, then we can create a future where both women and men can thrive.
The deadline to apply for the first of three installments Against All Odds Commission is 10 June 2021. The selected photographer will shoot their series between 6th July and 6th August 2021.