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Fighting for change

14 February 2012 by Sam

photographer in her studio

Rebecca Kamara in her studio. Copyright Lee Karen Stow

Last year photographer Lee Karen Stow launched her exhibition ’42’ Women of Sierra Leone at the International Slavery Museum, with the help of her former student Rebecca Kamara, who is one of the 42 women featured in the exhibition. At the opening events Rebecca spoke about how the photography workshops that Lee taught in Sierra Leone have inspired her to earn a living as a photographer. She has faced huge challenges, as she lives in a rural village and didn’t even have any electricity at home until recently – something that photographers in the UK take for granted to charge camera batteries and run their computers!

Lee returned to Liverpool last week to add some new photos to her exhibition. Rebecca couldn’t join her this time, but Lee visited her in Sierra Leone in September and took the photograph above, which should bring a smile to the face of anyone who met her last year. As you can see, Rebecca has built her own photo studio, with help from UK and US donations and support, but also through her own photography business and photographic sales. She has now also set up a women’s photography group in the village.

Rebecca isn’t the only one who has been busy. As well as updating the 42 exhibition, while she was in Liverpool Lee gave a talk about her latest projects. A chance meeting with a member of the Women’s Boxing Team in Sierra Leone led to the ‘Fighting for Gold’ project. On her return to the UK she photographed women boxers in clubs across Yorkshire for the ‘Girls in the ring’ project, and even started boxing herself.

The contrasts in conditions for women boxers in the two countries is shocking. In Sierra Leone the Women’s Boxing Team train at a gym with no running water, no showers and no free NHS to help with any injuries. They didn’t even have their own gloves when they first started to train and had to borrow gloves from the male boxers.

Despite this, when women’s boxing was included in the London 2012 Olympics for the first time they were determined to compete. Unfortunately this dream was not to be, so they have now set their sights on the 2016 Olympics instead. Portraits of some of these inspiring women are now included in the 42 exhibition, which is at the International Slavery Museum until 3 June 2012.

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