Lensational – Empowering Women through Photography

GBS students Bonnie Chiu and Peggy Tse recently founded “Lensational,” an organisation aimed at improving the problem of gender disparity and to help disadvantaged women through photography.

Have you noticed that gender inequality exists in most places of the world and even in the world’s most well developed cities?

Bonnie Chiu and Peggy Tse, two undergraduate students from The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School’s Global Business Studies (GBS) programme recently founded “Lensational,” an organisation aimed at improving the problem of gender disparity and to help disadvantaged women through photography.

“We believe that photography is a compelling tool to create social change,” says Chiu. Chiu explains how a meeting with a Turkish girl leads to the formation of Lensational – “A year ago, we traveled to Istanbul. A Turkish girl came up to me and asked if she could take a look at my camera. She told me that she liked taking photographs but never really had the chance. We chatted and have been in touch on Facebook since then. Photography has connected us. Since that encounter, we have realized that photography is a powerful language that transcends boundaries and cultures.”

Chiu (right) shows students and teachers in a school in Myanmar how to take photographs.

So, Lensational was created to conduct free photography classes and the key objectives are to educate, provide a platform for and economic empowerment. The classes give participants a chance to express their opinions, to interpret and discuss images and to work as part of a group.

Power of Photography

During Lensational classes participants learn to use photography to express their emotions and thoughts. Women are generally more expressive than men, and so have an inherent need to constantly express their feelings and thoughts. Studies also show that women are more prone to depression due to problems such as premenstrual syndrome, infertility and other pregnancy-related issues.

In view of women’s needs for and their natural talents in doing so, Lensational allows them to share their feelings through photography. Their photos can then be shared with a wider audience in Hong Kong through local exhibitions and to the world through a range of media channels.

In the long term, Lensational hopes that the participants can act as freelance photographers and sell their photographs through Lensational. As such, photography can be a means of economic empowerment.

Our Great Achievements

“Our strong conviction in Lensational has motivated our team to join different case competitions in order to gain publicity and funding,” says Chiu. Chiu recounts “We were proud to be one of the five grand finalists of the Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge 2013. In March, we joined the Social Venture Challenge, hosted at the World Model United Nations Conference in Australia. It was awarded a US$1,500 grant by the Resolution Project, a U.S.-based non-profit organization dedicated to fostering youth leadership development around the world through collaborative social entrepreneurship.”

After having received the venture grant, Lensational has made tremendous progress. “In May, we conducted a pilot photo-teaching project in Myanmar,” says Chiu. She continues “The image of Aung San Suu Kyi has put up a facade that women in her fellow country enjoy many opportunities. In reality, there is a great need for female empowerment there. This motivated us to choose Myanmar as our first overseas destination. We visited the Yangon Bakehouse, a social enterprise dedicated to creating job opportunities, developing skills and promoting fair wages for disadvantaged women as well as local villagers.”

Chiu (right) teaches photography at the Yangon Bakehouse in Myanmar.

Burmese girls are excited about their first attempt to use a digital camera.

Lensational has also conducted its first photo education program for 10 passionate, talented women from the Philippines and Indonesia. The participants can be equipped with newly found photography skills for portraits and landscapes after four classes to express their emotions and ideas.

Chiu (left in the first row) is happy to teach women from the Philippines and Indonesia about photography.

Future Plans

In August, Chiu will be going to Pakistan to continue Lensational’s mission. In Hong Kong, Lensational will continue to develop its first batch of graduates and expand its photo education program to more groups of underprivileged women.

“We take photographs every day to retain our cherished memories, and to express our emotions and thoughts. What we see as a necessity is, however, a luxury in the developing world. But isn’t it a universal right to own memories in tangible forms, and to speak freely of our minds? We believe it is. Both women and men, in developed and developing countries alike, deserve to use photography to achieve such goals.” Chiu says.

By Bonnie Chiu, an undergraduate student majoring in GBS at CUHK Business School with editorial input from Louisa Wah Hansen and Fion Chan.

Photo: Bonnie Chiu and Huffington Post