Women for Women - Ghana

After a lot of endless hours, I am finally ready to share my photos and video for The By Grace Foundation in Ghana. 

The By Grace Foundation is a female founded 501(c)(3) that sponsors the training and education of women in impoverished communities. 

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_001.jpg

The By Grace Foundation operates a vocational training facility in Tamale, Ghana. In Ghana, becoming a seamstress is a highly esteemed profession, but is only available to women with capital. By Grace sponsors the education fees and sewing machine so that underprivileged women have the opportunity to make an income. 

VIDEO: Tara Shupe

ANIMATION: Paige Dall

One thing I love about working with different non-profits like The By Grace Foundation, is sharing in the experience. From killing spiders with duck-tape and laughing over Africa moments, to watching the women open up. 

I have also had the honor of documenting The By Grace Foundation’s work in India and on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. 

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_057.jpg

We had flown into Accra and from there took a small plane to Tamale, one of the larger cities in Northern Ghana. It was such a small plane I had to check my larger camera equipment bag and was informed it would arrive the following day. I had a bit of a panic attack, but the gear all arrived as promised. 

TAMALE - NORTHERN GHANA

We hit the ground running on day one and started meeting so many faces. The most important being, The By Grace women! 

My time in Tamale was focused on doing interviews with the women and hearing their powerful stories. Along with capturing the process behind the clutches the women are learning to create through The By Grace Foundation. 

GIRL IN MARKETS

Young girls are used in Ghana as head porters, also known as kayayoo. They will carry heavy loads for shoppers and traders on their heads, sometime very long distances in the hot sun. She is likely not in school and is working to help support her family or her baby. She will be vulnerable to sexual abuse and unplanned pregnancy.

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_011.jpg

The By Grace Foundation is fighting these issues by teaching the women new skills they can use to generate an income!

Women working in the local market in Tamale. 

INTERVIEWS 

I brought large diffusion sheets and spent the morning figuring out how to soften the African sun. We had so many women to interview and it was going to take all afternoon. Which meant we needed to shoot during the brightest time of the day. 

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_062.jpg

Pictured above is the women's main seamstress. She helps educate the women on how to sew. 

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_063.jpg

Rafia, she was shy in her interview, but warmed up each time we saw her. She was giggling and laughing by our last day with her. 

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_064.jpg

I focused the video on Rebecca, because I loved her favorite African proverb:

“Small, small things make an elephant.”

Translates: “Sometimes people place limitations on themselves, but no matter how small you start, you can get where you need to be.” - Rebecca

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_065.jpg

"My name is Magdaline and I'm 14 years old. I want to learn to sew, so I can help my family."
-Magdaline, 14

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_067.jpg

This was a young girl I asked to photograph.

This is reality for young girls trying to support their families. They will often end up not going to school and carrying heavy loads back and fourth to the market. 

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_066.jpg

"Hi, my name is Azara and I do not know my age." - Azara, age unknown

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_068.jpg

"If I can sew well, then I can support myself in the future." 

Favorite African Proverb: "If a town is far, there is another town further." 
Translation: "There is always something ahead of you, or somebody always knows more." 

Fatima, 17

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_069.jpg

"When I am short money, I can use sewing." - Zilfa, 16

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_070.jpg

Favorite African Proverb: "The dry branch will bud and surprise those who gather sticks." Translation: "Nobody expects a dry branch to bud when a tree is cut down and dry. So for a branch to bud is a surprise. I love that proverb because expectations of me are low, so I want to surprise people by exceeding their expectations."

- FEROUZA, 20

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_071.jpg
TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_072.jpg

Favorite African Proverb: "Small, small, catches the monkey's tail." 
Translation: "Little, by little, you can get where you want to be." 

AJUIMA, 25

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_211.jpg

Another huge part of this trip was The By Grace Foundation’s new building for the women. An afternoon was spent celebrating and giving certificates to the women.  

SANDEMA

After our time in Tamale, we headed further North to Sandema. It was bringing back so many memories from my time in Malawi and the simplicity of village life.

Emily lived in Ghana for most of her childhood and getting to see her reunions was fun. I felt at home as we stayed in one of her old houses and got to settle in a bit.

One of my favorite nights was when we rode in the back of a pick up to one of her childhood friends home. We filled the small home with people and laugher as we ate the local dish, groundnut stew. 

I spent my evenings in Sandema walking around during the African harmaton glow, capturing village life.

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_028.jpg

I joked I was bullied at the watering hole because some kids asked me 21 questions and didn’t seem satisfied with any of my answers. I think I redeemed myself a few nights later, when a few of the same boys let me jump in their very serious volleyball match. (pictured above) 

After Sandema, time seemed to fly by. We spent one day relaxing at Zaina Lodge midway through the trip and it was the best decision EVER! After that we returned back to Tamale to get ready to leave and I wanted one more evening with the By Grace Women. 

TaraShupe_HumanitarianPhotographer_Woman_Photographer_National_Geographic_Ghana_Women_055.jpg

Only a few of the women were available, but I used a cloth I’d bought at the local market to create a backdrop. This would be our last night in Ghana, so after the photos we said good-bye to the women. 

One misconception about this photography work, is that it’s all exotic and glamorous. Instead, absolute exhaustion mixed with uncomfortable situations is more accurate. All while trying to execute a creative vision.

With that being said, you either love it, or hate it…and I love it! 

So many more powerful stories are coming in 2018 and I can't wait to share them. Leave your feedback, questions, or love below! 

-Tara Shupe 

One Home - Ten Girls

We are Strong - We are Women: One Home - Ten Girls 

The statistics in India are devastating when it comes to the amount of children being sold into illegal activities such as drug peddling, organ trade, labor, entertainment, adoption, marriage and sexual exploitation.  

INDIA_HUMANITARIAN_WORK_TARASHUPE_PHOTOGRAPHY_005.jpg

This next “Strong Women” photo story, is about ten young women that have gone from being orphaned or abandoned to living together as one big family. Located in the Prakasam District in Ongole, India these girls formed one of the first Covenant Children’s Home (CCH) in 2009. An India based organization that works directly with India Christian Ministries to help abandoned children have a solid foundation emotionally, physically and spiritually.

When we arrived to the girls home in Prakasam, they were all standing in the front door with the biggest smiles on their faces and were wearing the most beautiful outfits! When we got closer the girls filled our hands with flowers before welcoming us inside their home. 

They all sat in a row in the living room and then stood one by one and told me their name and how old they were. When I shared my own age they all laughed...I decided to take that as a hint I must be looking older!  

After they introduced themselves they showed us their bedroom which was filled with bunkbeds and illustrated posters on the walls. It had a resemblance of summer camp and so did all the laughter.

INDIA_HUMANITARIAN_WORK_TARASHUPE_PHOTOGRAPHY_004.jpg

I couldn't stop photographing their beautiful smiling faces as the evening sun was shining in the window and I started thinking about my own childhood memories of bunkbeds and sleepovers. Although I could never understand the cultural differences or incredible hardships of these darling girls, I could see the similar foundation of values that CCH was creating. 

A home where they will be given the opportunity to have a family-style living environment, an english speaking education to learn their way out of poverty, and daily worship to grow their relationship with God. Subsequently, empowering these young women to know their self worth and to pursue their dreams - because they are STRONG!  

We ended our time at the SN Padu home with the girls jumping rope, hula hooping and playing a tag game in their dresses as the sun was setting. It was already obvious there was joy radiating from the girls, but now they were a family. 

INDIA_HUMANITARIAN_WORK_TARASHUPE_PHOTOGRAPHY_006.jpg

You can learn more here about Covenant Children's Home  or India Christian Ministries

- Tara