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Youth Hong Kong | March 2014


Empowering women through photography by Bonnie Chiu co-founder of Lensational


e take photographs every day – to capture memories, thoughts and emotions. What we see as a necessity, however, is a luxury in the developing world. This is why a young entrepreneur and her co-founder set up Lensational, a non-profit social enterprise founded on the principle that giving underprivileged women cameras and training in photography can empower them emotionally and economically. When I was In Istanbul, Turkey, two years ago, a girl came up to me and asked if she could take a look at my camera. She’d never had the chance to use a camera before. The sheer joy on her face as she learned how to use one inspired me to use photography as an agent of social change. Photography is a universal language that transcends boundaries and connects cultures.

“She’d never had the chance to use a camera before


A young Turkish photography student

March 2014 | Youth Hong Kong


Witness to change This inspiration led to the birth of Lensational. The name, Lensational, is a combination of “lens” and “sensational.” My co-founder, Peggy Tse, and I believe that the model of social entrepreneurship holds potential for empowering women emotionally and economically. Lensational allows women to share their sensations through photography by giving them an outlet for the expression of their emotional needs as well as their natural talent for doing so.

Since Lensational’s establishment on 8 March 2013, International Women’s Day, we have taught photography to 120 women in Hong Kong, Myanmar and Pakistan. Seeing the change in Lensational students is what keeps Lensational going. Here are some stories I would like to share with you.

so poor that she has no clothes, no toys, no chance to go to school…

The issue: gender inequality Our belief in gender equality and the need to empower women to overcome inequality underlies our work. The reason can be seen in this photo of a little girl which I took when teaching photography in the urban slums of Pakistan. This girl is so poor that she has no clothes to wear, no chance to go to school, no toys whatsoever. The limited resources at home are allocated first to her brothers. Without any opportunities, she will grow up to be one of 517 million illiterate women in the world*1. She is likely to be extremely dependent on her family. After all, women only earn 10% of all income worldwide. Almost three-quarters of the world's 775 million illiterate adults are found in only ten countries. The top two countries are China and Pakistan.2

A little girl so poor that she has no clothes, no chance to go to school, no toys

Equality between women and men, or gender equality, refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of males and females. It means that women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female. Gender equality implies that the interests, needs and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration, recognizing the diversity of different groups of women and men. Gender equality is not a women’s issue but should concern and fully engage everyone. It is seen both as a human rights issue and as a precondition for, and indicator of, sustainable people-centered development. Based on


Youth Hong Kong | March 2014


Inequality in Pakistan In Pakistan, I taught photography to school children in the rural villages. During a one-hour session, I witnessed how photography has given girls the courage to dream the impossible. First, I gave the children disposable cameras and let them take whatever photos they wanted. These are the results.

Who holds the power?

The moto-taxi seen in these photographs is a common form of transport in Pakistan but women rarely ride on them ... or drive them. So I asked if anyone wanted to pose on the moto-taxi. But one girl raised her hand. You can see she how has the confidence to sit on the motor-taxi, and hold the handlebars. Look at the expressions on the boys’ faces! But she has the courage to drive.

A lot of girls hesitated


She had the courage to drive

Photos copyright Š Lensational Limited

March 2014 | Youth Hong Kong


Inequality in Hong Kong Even though Hong Kong appears to be rather progressive on women’s rights, during my internship at Amnesty International, I discovered that the apparently rosy picture masks some murky issues. Hong Kong is home to 300,000 migrant domestic workers, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines. Despite making up 4% of Hong Kong’s population, these women are seen as second-class citizens. The research I conducted on the rights of migrant domestic workers show that gender equality is still yet to be achieved in Hong Kong. Lensational aims to tackle gender inequality on both the local and global levels. Hence, we started

the first photography education workshop in May 2013 targeted domestic helpers in Hong Kong and later expanded to two developing Asian countries, Myanmar and Indonesia in summer 2013. Wherever the need for women’s empowerment exists, Lensational will go. We believe we can change the world for women and girls, one camera at a time. There have been Lensational photography education workshops in London this year. They are followed by exhibitions in Hong Kong in April 2014. Stay tuned and visit for more information and more stories of women and girls worldwide.

Global Gender Gap

The highest possible score is 1 (equality) and the lowest possible score is 0 (inequality). 1 - 0.75  

0.74 - 0.72  

0.71 - 0.70  

0.69 - 0.68  

0.67 - 0.66  

0.65 - 0.60  

0.59 - 0


Bonnie Chiu, a past participant in HKFYG’s Hong Kong 200, completed a BBA at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and is now doing a Master in International Relations at the London School of Economics.

1. 2011 Global Gender Gap Report, the World Economic Forum: 2.


Lensational feature in Youth Hong Kong  

Extract from Youth Hong Kong Magazine published by Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (March 2014) Copyright reserved: Hong Kong Federat...

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