Training the next generation of female storytellers from the Margins across Africa

Lydia Kibandi
Posted June 30, 2020 from Kenya
Esther Tinayo our community liaison officer and I demonstrating how to take a selfie, during one of our workshops training in Esiteti Village in Amboseli (1/3)

Lensational

My name is Lydia Wanjiku, from Kenya, leading programmes at Lensational, a non-profit social enterprise that equips marginalized women and girls with photography and visual storytelling. My passion for women’s empowerment started at a young age. I watched my mother struggled to attain any kind of financial freedom. She was one of the most beautiful women I knew but she struggled with her own body insecurities that showed whenever she smiled at a compliment.  After losing my mother I realized I had not experienced many daughter-mother moments that were vital in shaping my adult life and that I now had to learn on my own. It is my aspiration that I live better as a woman as well as support other women to attain financial freedom and confidence.

I learned about Lensational on a job hunt through a tweet by Hivos International. I was running a blog on fashion, intrigued by the psychology of body, embodied/ enclothed cognition. I became fascinated by the power of photography to tell stories and Lensational’s mission captivated me, combining my passion for women’s empowerment and for photography.           

In Feb 2015 I joined Lensational as a volunteer and ran my first      Programme in collaboration with Mathare Foundation in March 2016. The girls who at the time were barely in their teens had been practicing photography before our partnership and what struck me was their confidence behind the camera. I still recall Mary Wanjiru who is still in the Programme and one of their best photographers and I recall how despite being very shy and quiet, whenever she would hold the camera, her confidence would glow. Later in 2018 I run a Programme with Maasai girls and women from Amboseli Kenya. My encounter with these women would define my course to date.

The Maasai community by nature is very patriarchal and despite modern interventions most insist on keeping their traditional way of life. However, for Esiteti a small village just south of Amboseli national park this is further exacerbated by the remoteness of their land. This means that many girls start a life of unpaid work and family responsibilities as young as four, are arranged into marriage at 12, and start having babies soon after that. The great majority of these women were destined to live a whole life uneducated, lacking basic human rights, with low self-image, no agency over decisions affecting her body, life or livelihood, and, with no hope of any way out.

Lensational is a Non-Profit Organization that aims to empower underrepresented women in developing countries, through photography and digital storytelling to share their personal stories. We sell their creative work on our online gallery and connect them with brands for further work opportunities. Within Kenya, Lensational has worked through local partners on three distinct projects, having trained 150 women with only volunteer efforts and minimal funding.

Our goal is to increase our revenues to be able to empower 100 women by the end of this year ensuring at least half of those women are financially sustainable through our follow up mentorships and economic opportunities, and rapidly scaling that to 100,000 women in 5 years’ time.

This story was submitted in response to Become a Featured Changemaker.

Comments 19

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Sinyuy Geraldine
Jun 30
Jun 30

Dear Lydia, hmm. You moved me with your story. Congratulations on your work with Lensational. I should connect too because I have for over 10years been browsing to locate jobs in photography or story telling. Thank you for what you are doing on Kenya. I will like to see more of the photos you rake. Let me know how I too can volunteer at Lensational. Thanks again for this beautiful story.

Lydia Kibandi
Jul 01
Jul 01

Hello Geraldine, thank you so much for your feedback. I would certainly love to explore some areas you can volunteer in, you can write me an email on [email protected] and you can see more of our work on our website on www.lensational.org

Hello, Lydia,

Welcome to World Pulse! What a joy to know a new voice from Kenya is rising up!

The photos your uploaded here are high quality and professional. I love what Lensational is doing: using photography to share stories. Thank you for your introduction, dear.

Please write more! We love to know more about you.

Welcome again to our growing sisterhood!

Lydia Kibandi
Jul 01
Jul 01

Hello Karen,
Thank you so much! I am happy to be here and to be a part of the great work you are doing. I will certainly be delighted to keep sharing more.
Thank you.

ANJ ANA
Jul 01
Jul 01

Dear Lydia,
Thank you for sharing your experiences. the photos were so good telling its story very well. I wish you a very best for achieving your goal to empower 100 women by this years and scalling to 1,00000 in five years. good luck.
best regards, anjana

Jul 01
Jul 01
This comment has been removed by the commenter or a moderator.
Lydia Kibandi
Jul 01
Jul 01

Thank you so much Anj Ana!

Beth Lacey
Jul 01
Jul 01

Good luck towards achieving your goal of empowering 100,000 women

Lydia Kibandi
Jul 01
Jul 01

Thank you Beth!

Chi8629
Jul 02
Jul 02

Thank you for sharing.

Arem
Jul 03
Jul 03

Hi Lydia,
Thank you for sharing your story and about Lensational! I just checked out its website and saw some great photos/stories.
It's wonderful to hear that you're using your talents to empower underrepresented women!
I hope you keep us posted on the progress of Lensational and its target of empowering 100 women by year end.
Take care!

Adanna
Jul 07
Jul 07

Dear Lydia,

Welcome to World Pulse and thank you for sharing.
Nice work you are doing! I love the idea. Keep it up.

Love,
Adanna

TERESA
Jul 08
Jul 08

Hi Lydia,
Welcome to World pulse.
Keep it up the good work you are doing. I also love assisting the needy.
My name is Teresa. Now that the Word Pulse has connected us. lets share our emails mine is [email protected].
see you online.

TERESA
Volunteer in Community Social Work/Volunteer in Community Health

Elizabeth Ziro
Jul 12
Jul 12

Hi Lydia, so proud of you and what you are doing. Keep empowering more girls and women. Do keep safe

Dr Anita Smith
Jul 15
Jul 15

Hello Lydia. You are doing a great job volunteering and teaching women and girls through your non-profit organization - Lensational! Your story is motivational and inspirational. Thank you for sharing with us!

Queen Sheba D Cisse
Jul 17
Jul 17

Dear Lydia,
Thank you for sharing your work with this very wonderful organization Lensational here with the World Pulse family. The talent of Storytelling via photography is remarkable and empowering.
I have worked with and met some beautiful Kenyan women here in the USA before I returned to my ancestral land in Senegal. I am happy to see and hear again about the great work our Kenyan sisters are involved in on the beautiful Motherland. May you keep in touch here and keep us informed. May your goals be successful truly.

Mama Queen

Nini Mappo
Jul 29
Jul 29

Hi Lydia,
Thank you for bringing life and light of technology to these women in the margins. Your story paints a sad but clear picture of how women and girls are living under the weight of tradition, which was aware of but never really thought on it.

And reading on your work and thinking that I could be that woman, that girl only highlights the urgency for their empowerment more.

Well done, and I hope that you find funding to grow even beyond your target numbers.

lemonadelemon
Aug 30
Aug 30

Thank you for sharing. Go girls power

Emmanuella Musafiri
Sep 28
Sep 28

Thank you for sharing dear