Black Women Photographers on what International Women’s Day means to them

he Black Women Photographers collective, established via a Covid-19 relief fund, is approaching its second year of promoting and empowering Black women female photographers, as well as increasing the visibility of their work.

In March, a virtual summit supported by Adobe will feature Raven B Varona, Kimberly Douglas, aka @kihmberlie, Audrey Woulard, Lola Flash, Lola Akinmade Åkerström, Amanda J Cain, NHL’s first Black woman team photographer, Whitney Matewe, DeLovie Kwagala, Cheriss May, Sade Ndya, Chaya Howell, and Idara Ekpoh.

Above all else, International Women’s Day (IWD) is like all other days: every day I am a woman and every day is my day. But what I appreciate about IWD is that it is usually a call to think more about our identity as women and the boundaries we make or contest around that identity.

Yes, it becomes a marketing gimmick for brands ,and I am already dreading the amount of Each for Equal/Choose to Challenge/’Break the Bias campaign emails I am about to receive. Notwithstanding, for me, the day becomes a plea and a reminder for us to think more about what it means to be a woman in our various societies. While I understand and appreciate the need to celebrate women’s achievements in our misogynistic world, events that reify gender, like IWD, have become opportunities for me to think more about the role of gender. And when I am not in the mood for hard thoughts, IWD is a day to text my mum, aunties, sisters and friends that *clink-clink* emoji because, chale, it’s not easy being a woman.

I am here and alive today because of redemptions I find when I am in community with other women. The way we have learned to stand tall for ourselves, to hold each other when we can’t stand, and to tell ourselves the truth about what keeps us from standing … these are the things that have brought me here.

International Women’s Day is an iconic day in which women are celebrated all over the world … I strongly believe women should be celebrated every day. My mum is a superhero to me, so I dedicate every women’s day to her and to other amazing women out there.

This photo series is titled Women and Cultureand it aims to celebrate women and their connection to our culture. African women contribute greatly to the formation of culture and Yoruba fashion. The value of women in our society cannot be underestimated: they add colours and meaning to our society, homes, and offices.

To be photographed is a vulnerable act. There is a relationship that is created between myself as the photographer and the women I capture in front of the lens. I am given the opportunity to show their smile, their grace, their strength, and their resilience. Today, on International Women’s Day, I celebrate every woman who has sat in front of my lens. I say thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to capture part of you.

International Women’s Day to me is about recognising the impact of the women you know, know of, and aspire to be like. As I consider this, I am using this day to reflect on the impact that the women I photograph have had on me and my work.

For me, it’s a day of recognising women and camaraderie with each other and support. It means unity, it means that women from all over the world can see women do something for their own countries. It means another day for women to be celebrated. I honestly welcome any excuse to celebrate women, especially in this part of the world.

Hadizah Atta, a public health specialist: “The word that would best describe my identity is ‘duty’. Duty as first daughter, sister and friend. No one had told me that power could come from sex, that having sex and not feeling bad about yourself is really strong type of feminism, especially in Nigeria.”

International Women’s Day is not just a celebration of the women in our lives but of the women who will come before and after that. Many families and communities are stronger when they have more empowered women within them.

There are generations of girls and women who deserve this day to acknowledge how vital they are to this society and to each other.

International Women’s Day to me is a time to celebrate present women, while also honouring the women that have come before me that made an impact to improve the quality of life women experience.

It is also a time to reflect on what is yet to be done to achieve equity and an introspection of how I can contribute to the movement in my own unique way.

Every day is women’s day to me, however International Women’s Day is the day that the whole world gets to acknowledge and celebrate Women worldwide. This is the day that we celebrate being women, our impact and contribution to each and every society that we are in and or attached to. International Women’s Day also means taking stock on how far we have come with regards to women’s rights and assessing the next steps we can take to do better for women across the world.

Originally published at https://www.theguardian.com on March 8, 2022.

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