For the past ten months (up to June 2007) I've been leading the My World, My View photo project, teaching photography to disadvantaged children in Pokhara, Nepal (in the photo I'm with Belmaya and Sunita, both of whom want to become photographers - you can see their and other girls' work on BBC Online at http://tinyurl.com/ytlv6q). The project has just culminated in a fabulous book of 22 girls' photos, My World, My View, which I'll be launching with an exhibition in London in October 2007 (or you can buy it now from www.asha-nepal.org).
My Nepal connection began with an article I wrote in 1998 about the terrible ordeals of women in Nepal who had been trafficked into prostitution, which inspired Peter Bashford to set up Asha-Nepal, with me as a founder trustee. On a field trip to Kathmandu in 2000, I met and subsequently adopted my daughter, Simi, now aged 7. Simi prefers England to Nepal, and you can see her point: it's damn cushy here in comparison. But we gained plenty of carbon credits while we were there, since half the time there's no power.
Before Nepal it was India - another article that I wrote in 1994 about a crumbling desert city in Rajasthan led to my founding Jaisalmer in Jeopardy, a charity to help conserve that ancient sandcastle city, which is still standing despite global warming (it was a freak storm in 1993 with 12 inches of rain in a day that nearly destroyed it).
Aside from that, I'm a freelance writer and photographer, working for numerous national newspapers and magazines. My photos are with Axiom photo library, and travel writing at Travel Intelligence.
About My World, My View
Girls in Nepal have no voice. They are not encouraged to have opinions or develop their individuality. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds are at the bottom of the heap. Photography has proved a valuable tool for encouraging self-expression and building self-esteem. The nine-month My World, My View photography project was set up to help such girls in Nepal to find their voice and develop the confidence to use it.
The 22 participants, aged 6 to 17, live in the care of SOS (Save our Sisters) Bahini, an organisation in Pokhara that provides family homes to girls who were abused, neglected, abandoned, homeless, orphaned or in other desperate situations. None of them had ever handled a camera before. They were given cameras (both conventional and digital) and photography tuition and encouraged to document their world through their own eyes.
Their work proved so engaging and vibrant that, after exhibiting their work in Kathmandu, the British Council in Nepal funded this book of their photographs and testimonies, My World, My View. This is an important outcome for the girls, to validate their talents and to give them a means of earning their own income. It has also given them a forum to address some of the issues facing females in Nepal – gender discrimination, violence, abuse, child labour. The book and photographic prints are for sale, with proceeds going to Asha-Nepal to create a new SOS Bahini home for more girls. A royalty will also go direct to the participants for their individual savings accounts.
Travel writing www.travelintelligence.com
Charity trustee and My World, My View photo project www.asha-nepal.org