LAURENCREW

TANZANIA // OXFAM - FEMALE FOOD HEROES

LAUREN CREW

Hold up. Let me back up. For those of you who don't know me or know how I got ahold of an opportunity such as this one, here it is:

A good friend of mine, Genevieve Gorder, was asked to view Oxfam's work empowering women farmers and dealing with the rising refugee crisis in Tanzania. When I was asked to be a part of the trip and photograph the experience, I said yes with a quickness and started to mentally and physically prepare as best as I could for the unknown.

My first assignment was in Monduli, a small town in the Arusha region. The purpose of the assignment was to shoot stills while they were filming an Oxfam run reality TV show that features women farmers performing a range of individual and team challenges under nearly 24-hour TV surveillance. The aim is both to empower the women and to elevate their profile nationwide as strong, capable contributors to society. The show airs nationwide and in surrounding countries, viewers vote on the winner, but the winner and all the contestants return to their communities with newfound respect and a stronger voice in order to advocate for farming rights for women. Genevieve was asked to give the contestants a challenge focusing on the design of traditional homes of the Maasai villages. And I was asked to photograph that experience. 

The collaboration between the women and between the groups and Gen was a dynamic I won’t forget. Before making this trip, I couldn’t help but be curious how they would respond; would they think “who is this white girl coming in to tell us about design?” I questioned the sensitivity of the efficiency of their homes that have worked for them for centuries. But when the filming began, I realized that not only did the women work tirelessly to win the challenge, but they thrived on the idea of making something in their home look as beautiful and elaborate as the patterns they wear on a daily basis. They came together in ways that only women can. As I ran from house to house I watched them draw out ideas, encourage and lead one another in a supportive way and work with smiles and wonderment that will stick with me forever. Watching the men watch the women still gives chills. But watching the women realize their creativity and impress themselves is what made my heart dance. It was one of those moments where I let myself be present as I watched what can happen when good people with good intentions can create change in someone’s belief in their self which is the greatest change in my opinion.