Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Photographers Without Borders Founder Interview

Our voluntary Communications Officer, Lola Méndez of Miss Filatelista, sat down with Photographers Without Borders Founder and CEO Danielle Da Silva to learn about her project with Sambhali Trust. The photo story features her images.

How will your photography and video make a difference for the women and girls at Sambhali Trust?

Moving images and video can create a world difference for organisations like Sambhali Trust. Storytelling is a powerful tool that has the ability to facilitate and maintain connections with those in the global community who may be donors, volunteers, or just simply inspired.

Why do you focus on grassroots organisations like ours over larger, more recognised development projects?

Our photographers and videographers/directors volunteer their valuable time to these projects, so we want to make sure we are serving those who need it most and who will be able to make the most of the opportunity. The bigger reason we try to focus on grassroots organisations is because more often than not, they are the most sustainable, most practical and most creative in crafting tangible solutions and having impact. Every single place on this planet is unique in terms of culture, language, socio-economics, history, and geography, and grassroots organisations naturally take these things into account. Most of all, grassroots organisations are often trusted in their community, so they have the potential to be cornerstones of change.

With your Indian heritage, what does it mean to you to be here meeting women who are marginalised by the cast system and the patriarchal society?

People are people, and I am always sensitive towards those who are marginalised in any way. I can easily see my grandmother and my aunties and cousins in the faces of these women. Knowing how Indian culture “operates” on some level has caused me to really appreciate the work being done here. It’s not easy to do “women’s empowerment” work in India, and so Sambhali Trust is very unique in that the man leading the organisation is someone who chose to use his privilege and his life experiences to help others at the risk of his place on the Indian social hierarchy. I think that’s beautiful and rare and worth appreciating fully.

What makes you passionate about helping women?

I am passionate about a lot of things. I am passionate about supporting women because I am a woman. I have a mother and grandmothers with epic stories. I am a storyteller. And because I am so open about my own stories, I attract those wishing to tell theirs. Women don’t often get to tell their stories. They are told for them. The stories I’ve heard deserve to be told so that we can ease the pain and suffering of this world.

Will you share with us one experience that has shaped your life thus far?

I will say that following my intuition has always been key. I’ve learned is to not take advice from just anybody. I only take advice from those who I admire and/or aspire to be like.

In one sentence, what does empowerment mean to you?

Empowerment is being able to make decisions and have a sense of control over your destiny. But as Gloria Steinem said, “Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.”

How do you empower the women in your life?

PWB’s team is 90% female, and many of our photographers are female. We are operating in a largely male-dominated field in some ways, so I think that says something!

Why is women’s empowerment one of your focus issue areas?

I would say “equality” is one of my focus issue areas—whether that mean women’s  empowerment, or human rights for anyone of any gender, I’m for it. I don’t know if that requires an explanation but in short, when the day comes that we finally see each other and treat each other as equals the world over, that will be the most beautiful day.

How do you define feminism?

Equality for all.

How can women make the world a better place in 2017?

Don’t be afraid to step into who we are and to reach for what we really want. Help each other where possible. Speak up and take action when your spirit feels misaligned.

How has your time at Sambhali Trust helped you "see through a new lens”?

I must say that Sambhali Trust has renewed my ongoing faith in the human spirit. Govind, Mukta, and everyone who makes Sambhali Trust what it is—they are true angels on earth.

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