International Women’s Day is a reason to celebrate the sacrifice and strength of women publicly. Today, we take time to remember the perilous journeys that women make across borders around the world — looking for safety, prosperity and better lives, but risking everything in the process. Some of them never make it across the border. Those who do defy the odds and cross the border face increasingly harsh and unwelcoming policies and attitudes. These women exemplify the strength and defiance of women across all odds.
Here’s a look at some photo projects that have highlighted these stories.
- In a project for National Geographic, Greek photojournalist Myrto Papadopoulos documents an unseen side of “the refugee crisis.” Each of the women portrayed are mothers — some are pregnant and others hold their children. As Papadopoulos describes it, “I felt the women were left out and were the ones who were really suffering.” She continues “and on the other hand, I felt that they would keep these people moving, and they were the reason to continue the journey. Their children were the reason to continue the journey.”
“I lived in Edleb, Syria. When I was in my seventh month of pregnancy, an airplane bombed the clinic [where I worked as a nurse]. I felt that my stomach got solid. When I went to the doctor, he gave me only one more week of work because I couldn’t feel my daughter. My husband wanted me to stop, but I didn’t want to stop. Nurses there were a minority. I felt that the people and the patients needed us. “—Rania El-Moussa, 24 PHOTOGRAPH BY MYRTO PAPADOPOULOS, REDUX
2. In 2014, PRI featured MigraZoom, a United Nations Development Program funded project that handed cameras to migrants from across Central America crossing over the Mexico-United States border. More often than not, the faces captured are male, even though women have the most to lose when they embark on the journey. In some cases, 80% of women from Central America face the risk of being raped, however they still make the journey. What happens for them along the way is often left unknown, but MigraZoom was one attempt to change that.
“This photo was taken by a volunteer at a church-run migrants shelter,” says [MigraZoom founder] Encarni Pindado. “We don’t know much about the two people in this photo, whether they are a couple or not. It’s true, though, that if you’re a migrant women traveling alone through Mexico, it’s a good idea to find a companion along the way. Many women get raped.”3.
3. Leila Alaoui was a French-Moroccan photographer and video-artist who explored issues of migration and cultural identity around the Mediterranean. One of her earliest projects, No Pasara, which was taken entirely in Morocco, captured her sensitive treatment of humanitarian issues and her ability to capture otherness through a quietly beautiful portraits. Alaoui was tragically killed in an Al-Qaeda attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso while on assignment in January 2016. Her series No Pasara, which means “entry denied” is currently on display until April 30th at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. While the series is not exclusively focused on women, Alaoui’s work was dedicated to humanizing the migrant experience through her art and left a profound impact in the world of photography.