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World of Change: Free daycare, non-binary portraits, and artistic pursuits

Four impactful projects take us around the world, from a drama academy in India to a transgender portrait series in the UK.

Explore social projects around the globe, including influential photography series, arts education programmes and social enterprises that train artisans to create sustainable goods.

Mongolia: The Red Hero Collection

An image from the Red Hero Collection, a charity photography exhibition
An image from the Red Hero Collection, a charity photography exhibition

Paul Cox, a Zimbabwean documentary photographer based in Hong Kong, first learned about the Tsolmon Ireedui Foundation (TIF) in 2013. Founded in 2010, TIF provides free daycare for children from families in need in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, so their parents can work. In addition, TIF also helps disadvantaged families enrol their children in local schools, offers warm meals, and distributes everyday necessities.

Inspired by TIF’s mission, Cox began fundraising for the charity through his Red Hero Collection (Ulaanbaatar means ‘red hero’ in Mongolian) charity exhibitions. In collaboration with Kee Club and Christie’s, Cox has auctioned some of his favourite photographs from his many visits to Mongolia and, so far, has raised more than US$100,000 for the centre.

UK: Female in Focus

To Survive on this Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Nonconforming Older Adults, a photo series by Jess T Dugan.
To Survive on this Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Nonconforming Older Adults, a photo series by Jess T Dugan

Around the world, women account for 80 per cent of photography graduates, but only 15 per cent become professional photographers. It’s with those figures in mind that 1854 Media, which runs the British Journal of Photography, launched Female in Focus, a new award highlighting the work of female photographers globally.

Among them is photographer Jess T Dugan, who created a photo series dubbed To Survive on this Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Nonconforming Older Adults with partner Vanessa Fabbre. “The series depicts candid, frank portraits from the LGBTQ community,” Dugan told the British Journal of Photography in an interview. “I hope that my photographs both validate those within queer communities and educate those who may be unfamiliar with LGBTQ people.” 

Brazil: Rede Asta

Rede Asta, a Brazilian social enterprise which helps female artisans become eco entrepreneurs.
Rede Asta, a Brazilian social enterprise which helps female artisans become eco entrepreneurs

Rede Asta, a Brazilian social enterprise with locations in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, helps talented female artisans from vulnerable communities become eco-entrepreneurs. Established in 2005, the organisation has worked with more than 1,200 women and generated US$3.4 million in income for these artisans.

In addition to providing several platforms where artisans can sell their products, such as showrooms and an online marketplace, the organisation also offers free business classes, networking, marketing connections, and mentorship.

On the environmental side, Rede Asta focuses on sustainably produced items, which means artisans must transform waste – such as fabric scraps, seat belts, uniforms, and electronics – into lifestyle products and accessories. The innovative handmade items run the gamut from bags to jewellery, children’s toys, clothing, travel gear, and office supplies.

India: Expression & Freedom

An artwork by Expression & Freedom, a speech and drama academy for children in Pune, India.
An artwork by Expression & Freedom, a speech and drama academy for children in Pune, India

Founded in 2002 by professional drama instructor Insiyah Kirloskar, Expression & Freedom (E&F) is a speech and drama academy for children in Pune, India. With a mission to foster imagination and self-esteem, E&F encourages children to try a variety of artistic mediums from poetry to creative writing, speech, drama, storytelling, illustration and more.

As part of a recent assignment in E&F’s Writers Module, 13-year-old student Trayi Ajit wrote a spoken word poem based on the prompt “I will dance”:

I will dance
The mere tapping of pencils on a table
The distant humming of a boy doing
homework
The dha-dhinak-dhin-dha of a girl
playing the tabla
The trumpet being played in the studio
across the road
The tingling sensation in the bones of
my socially awkward self
I can’t dance, I say
He can’t sing, he says
“We are worthless,” we all say.
But let us bring it all to one stage
Make the 21st century the golden age
Make the headlines on every page
Break out of the unbreakable cage
Of self-hatred
We are not worthless
He will sing
I will dance