Thursday, April 17, 2008

UNICEF’s Photo of the Year Contest

The annual UNICEF Photo of the Year Contest once again in 2007 left millions speechless, inspired, shocked, and enticed into action.

This years winning image looks harmless at first, a man and a young girl sitting side by side, that is until you realize this is not a photo of a father and daughter, but an engagement photograph. The by photographer Stephanie Sinclair, is of a 40-year-old groom sitting beside his 11-year-old future bride, taken last year in Afghanistan. The legal age to wed for a girl in Afghanistan is 16, however child marriages are still common in many areas. Sinclare, asked the child bride what show she felt, she responded, “Nothing, I do not know this man. What am I supposed to feel?”. According to UNICEF some 60 million children are forced to enter into marriages before they are of legal age, half of which are in South Asia. The problem of child brides is the greatest in Rajasthan, India, where 15% of girls are under 10 years old when they married. Child marriages lead to higher instances of domestic violence and early pregnancies, which leave girls at high risk for death in childbirth, complications, and low birth weights.

The second place photograph was of a a 12 year-old boy working in a Bangladeshi brickyard, taken by photographer GMB Akash, of Bangladesh. UNICEF estimates that 4.7 million children between five and 14 years of age are involved in child labor in Bangladesh alone, and some 246 million children aged 5-17 worldwide are involved in full-time labor. Children involved in child labor have little to no access to an education, and therefore their escape from the factories, fields, etc becomes very limited, in addition many children are malnourished and ripe for additional exploitation

The third-place photograph by German photographer Hartmut Schwarzbach, shows a 9 year old girl jumping in on a junked chair in the middle of a landfill outside of Manila, the day happens to be the young girls birthday. The girl is one of the children who live in the nearby charcoal burners’ camp with her family, and like the other children she spends her days in search of wood among the rubbish in th dump. The children in camps such as this are malnourished and lack education, leaving them to continue in the cycle of poverty, with little chance of escape from dumps that consume their days.

Honorable Mentions

Crimes and their results
“The soldier came at night. He said I was not the first he had raped. He was brutal. He pierced my leg with a spear and then raped me for four hours. He came again on six nights in a row. Why I love the first daughter more is because I gave birth to her as a result of love. The father was my husband. The second girl is a result of an unwanted circumstance (rape).”
Joseline I.* (37, HIV+) with her daughter Leah B.* (12)

“I never loved the child. I have to force myself to love him. But he makes it impossible. He behaves like a street child. He is a bad boy. I don’t tell him that I don’t love him. It’s in his blood…”
Claudin M.* (26) and her son Jeandediue U.* (12)

“When I was pregnant, I wanted to die. I tried to kill myself. Then I became afraid. I thought about having the baby and then killing it. But when he was born, I immediately loved him. He was so beautiful. I could not kill him. I will always love my son.
Annasalie M.* (34, HIV+) and her son Prince R.* (12, HIV+)

For his project, Jonathan Torgovnik wanted to find 50 women who were raped during the Rwandan genocide 13 years ago and who gave birth to a child as a result of that rape.

Life in Gaza

For years now, raids, death and destruction have been a part of everyday life in the Gaza Strip, Palestine. On 10 April 2006, bombs destroyed a house in the city of Beit Lahiya in the Northern part of the region. An eight-year-old child was killed in the attack and a further 13 children between the age of 1 and 17 were severely wounded.

UNICEF supports schools, youth centers and kindergartens in Palestinian areas, in order to get kids off the streets. The aim is to provide space for fun and games amidst the everyday violence - space for peace education and learning, providing the young generation with better perspectives to solve conflicts peacefully. In light of the dramatic development in 2007, UNICEF also sent pharmaceuticals and vaccines against measles, mumps, rubella and tuberculosis to the Gaza Strip to prevent an outbreak of dangerous diseases among the children. In addition, UNICEF campaigned to preserve and maintain the drinking water supply for the population who were literally cut off from the outside world. Two out of three families in Gaza live below the poverty line. In the Palestinian areas, 10% of all children are stunted due to chronic malnutrition.

The photographer Hatem Moussa grew up in the Gaza Strip and has been working there since 1998. His pictures show the effects of the ongoing conflict on the civilian population

Pain Threshold

Boys hang on a bar for five minutes as part of a training session at the Gymnastics Hall of the Shanghai University of Sports, August 7, 2007. Students of the gymnastics class of Yangpu District Youth Sports School are all aged 5 to 9. China's future Olympic hopefuls train at one of the thousands of provincial sports schools around the country. Even though these athletes might be too young to make the 2008 Beijing Games, they harbour dreams of winning Olympic gold in London 2012 or beyond.

Since 2006, Shanghai based photographer Nir Elias has been photographing the training of Chinese boys and girls in various sporting disciplines.

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