Women’s issues and advancing the status of women and girls has to be one of the chief concerns of every society. As a photographer I’ve attempted to be the narrator of fragments of these issues in my society. I tried to investigate girl’s education in deprived regions of my country.
In recent years there has been a growing demand among villagers and the central nomadic tribes of the country, for the education of their children. In most of these regions the number of students does not meet the quorum to build a school. Moreover, most of these areas are impassable for teachers to reach schools. As a result boarding schools are the only viable option. The construction of these schools has made education accessible to children of some of the lowest income families in the country. Nonetheless, even at first glance the students’ haggard silhouettes and pale faces revealing their mal-nutrition and digestive diseases, exposes their unfavorable living and emotional conditions in these schools. In spite that, my aim has not been to depict a dark and miserable image of these girls’ lives. In fact, what inspired all my trips to these schools and made them meaningful was the passion of life and the hope to change in these girls that transcended their somber living conditions. I’ve attempted to draw a truthful image of their life and their enthusiastic spirits, in hope of better future and conditions that all these girls well deserve.
These schools are mostly located in south, east and south east of Iran in provinces of Kerman, South Khorasan and Khouzestan. I travelled to these schools with female theology students who went there to preach Islamic and religious doctrines. In this way I managed to obtain entrance permit, otherwise it would be too difficult for me to enter these schools. Even when I had my permit, it was still difficult to gain principals’ approval for photography. I had to answer a long list of questions.
On my visits to these schools, I heard girls crying and moaning at night and even during daytime. When I asked for the reason, the dormitory supervisors related that to the fact that girls were away from their families and missed their parents. However, the girls’ narrative was different. They moaned due to stomach ache. Teachers complained about the students’ laziness and their unwillingness to learn. Students were unhappy with dormitory supervisors’ bad manners, inappropriate and often inadequate food and drinking water, lack of adequate access to shower and bathing, and insanitary restrooms. More interesting was that school principals considered everything good and proper, however they were totally cautious which corners my camera would capture…
It was evident to me that lack of regular contact with their families made everything more difficult for them. It could be the case that they would not talk to their parents even once in a month.
Despite all these, none of the hardships could stop these girls from attending schools. Many of them are usually engaged before finishing their high school, and immediately after getting their diploma they get married. Nevertheless, the hope for a better future and going to college have increased the number of girls attending these schools in different educational levels.
Searching for hidden and less seen layers of Iranian society has always been one of my main goals. Certainly by a few times visit to these school, I have not been able to fully describe the girls’ living circumstances. These photographs reflect only a small section of what I’ve seen. In order to do justice to this project one needs to travel there for years and even live with them.