Photography For Social Change:Canon and Plan International Belgium help young people fight sexual harassment in public.
June 2019 – The Brussels Regional Parliament has passed a resolution aimed at tackling sexual harassment in public following a visual storytelling project for young people organised by Canon Europe and Plan International Belgium.
Canon and Plan International Belgium have come together to enable young people in Brussels to share their experiences of sexual harassment in public spaces through the medium of photography. As a result of this project, the Brussels Regional Parliament passed a resolution in April 2019 tackling sexual harassment on public transport. The resolution itself has led to the Brussels public transport company STIB launching a sexual harassment awareness and education campaign in May.
The BruxELLES photography project was born in 2017 as part of Canon’s Young People Programme, an initiative giving young people photography skills and using the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to address variety of global issues. Through the partnership with Plan International Belgium, a charity dedicated to ensuring equal opportunity for girls and children’s rights, 14 young people were trained by internationally renowned photographers and Canon ambassadors Bieke de Poorter and Mashid Mohadjerin. They coached the participants on how to capture and share the experiences of sexual harassment women face every day.
As part of the Young People Programme, the young photographers were encouraged not only to raise awareness of the issue, but also to identify solutions in their local community. Using their images to raise concerns about girls’ safety in the city, the young people presented their work at the ‘Jeudi de l’hémicycle’ Conference. Their photos proved so inspiring that they were invited back to testify in a series of hearings on sexual harassment in the city. They also worked directly with a number of legislators and based on their views and feedback, MPs from the Brussels Regional Parliament unanimously passed a resolution dedicated to tackling sexual harassment in public spaces in April 2019.
Juliette (15), one of the BruxELLES project participants, said: ““The way to equality is not going to be easy but we will make it. As young activists, we want to break stereotypes and improve the situation for all girls and boys! In your daily actions, you as well can stand up for youth, especially for girls!” Following a unanimous vote in favour of the resolution, the young activists continue to push the agenda of fighting sexual harassment on public transport. This includes working with Brussels public transport company STIB and Plan International Belgium to drive awareness and give tools to both victims and by-standers.
“We are incredibly proud and humbled to be part of these young people’s stories, helping them to drive real and meaningful change,” said Stuart Poore, Director of Sustainability and Government Affairs. “Teenagers all over the world are standing up for what they believe in and it is our responsibility to ensure they have organisations such as Canon and Plan International working together to get their voices heard. The Young People Programme has been developed to create real solutions to achieve the UN’s SDGs and the BruxELLES project is a fantastic example of just that.”
“For the first time ever, young people were listened to as experts at a Parliamentary hearing in the Brussels Parliament,” explained Régine Debrabandere, National Director of Plan International. “At Plan International Belgium, we strongly believe that youngsters can make a difference, especially when it comes to addressing problems that they encounter in their everyday life. That’s exactly what the BruxELLES photography project embodies. As a children’s rights organisation, we strive for a world that is just and safe for all children and young people and value the contributions of our partners such as Canon. This starts with ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all youngsters, in all their diversity.”
Young activists used a professional Canon camera to explore their neighbourhood in Brussels with gender glasses: do the girls feel safe in the city? If not, what is needed to change that? Through their photos, Plan International Belgium’s youth activists ask other young people, political leaders and adults to listen to them and take action.