Malawi female photographers establish group

In an effort to foster their interests through sharing of ideas, experiences and opportunities, Malawian female photographers converged in Blantyre during the week where they set up a women’s group.

The Women’s Desk will be a wing of the photographers’ mother body, Photographers Association of Malawi (PHOTAMA), which was established 14 years ago.

In an interview with Nyasa Times, the newly elected chairperson of the group, Fiona Zalira, said she was delighted that Malawian female photographers have formed a group that will provide a platform to advance their interests.

“The establishment of the Women’s Desk means a lot to us as female photographers. You know naturally, women, before men, are always perceived to be second players even in circumstances where they are star-performers and through this grouping we want to prove that we are equal [with men],” she said.

Lucky Mkandawire: Photama boss welcomes women group

She added: “We want Malawians now to start seeing more of the country through the lens of female photographers. This group will also provide an exchange and learning platform of the local women photographers.”

Mainly composed of amateur and beginner photographers, the grouping has since appealed for support from the corporate world.

“There are hundreds of women just staying idle in our communities, we want them to try photography… time is long gone when photography was viewed as a mere hobby or a man’s career, we ask the corporate world to give us business and funding for technical trainings so that we transform our lives,” urged the 25-year-old Zalira.

Commenting on the establishment of the branch, President of the Photographers Association of Malawi, Lucky Zerembe Mkandawire said the development marks a milestone in promoting the art of photography in Malawi.

He said for 14 years, PHOTAMA has had low participation of women and the formation of the women’s desk will encourage more women to start taking photography as a career.

“The women’s desk offers a unique opportunity for Malawian female photographers to interact, network, share ideas, experiences and opportunities but above all have fun amongst themselves,” he said.

The PHOTAMA President also said the development is in line with the association’s five-year Strategic Plan (2010-2015) “which targets at least 30 percent representation of women in the association.”

“As you know, Malawi’s Gender Development Index reveals existence of worrying disparities between men and women. As such PHOTAMA’s goal is to mainstream gender to enhance equal representation of both sexes. We want to ensure that women participation in PHOTAMA activities is enhanced through increased number of women photographers in the country,” explained Mkandawire.

During the gathering, other members who were elected into various positions included Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) employee and former employee, Maggie Wingolo (vice chairperson) and Ruth Katuma (secretary- unopposed), respectively.

The position of vice secretary went to Charity Mkandawire of Mzuzu while Chisomo Mchombo-Jumbe and Elizabeth Mwapasa were voted treasurer and deputy.

Stella Mthyola (Lilongwe), Jenipher Mhango-Nyirenda, Carlo Bomba, Hazel Gadama and Thoko Chikondi (all from Blantyre) were voted in as committee members.

Founded in January 1998 after a week-long photojournalism /visual literacy training course organised by the Ministry of Information with funding from the British Council, PHOTAMA currently has close to 300 members across the country.

Among others, PHOTAMA members have access to membership card, correspondences on upcoming events/meetings, training opportunities, exhibitions, reference resource centre and marketing advice.

Its main objective is to promote and develop the art of photography and protect the intellectual property rights of photographers in Malawi through capacity building, marketing, networking and collaboration between photographers and users of products and services.

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