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Creating Own Histories: Adolescent Girls in Mumbai’s Bastis-Use of Photography as a Tool of Documentation and Advocacy


Expressing oneself is a fundamental right as enunciated in many international conventions and national constitutions. Expressing oneself,however, is subject to other factors, namely, one’s access to language, and means and platforms of expression. Marginalised groups have historically been kept away from gaining, as well as creating, knowledge and language. Breaking out of deprivation for marginalised groups requires having a reference framework of their own stories that are accessible to their own people, as well as visible to the rest of the world as legitimate history. As Sheila Rowbotham (1973) says, “in order to create an alternative, an oppressed group must at once shatter the self-reflecting world which encircles it and, at the same time, project its own image onto history.... All revolutionary movements create their own ways of seeing.” (p. 27). This paper seeks to show Vacha’s work with adolescent girls who purport to express themselves and document their perspectives through photography. Girls form one of the most marginalised sections of society, due to age and gender. Girls from deprived backgrounds contend with further disabilities of caste and class. Their perspectives are seldom part of the collective consciousness of their own communities, let alone enter mainstream discourses. Vacha uses photography as a useful tool for deprived girls to express and document their stories. Public exhibitions are used to take these images to a wider audience.


Girls’ histories, Photography, Girls’ Agency, Advocacy, Vacha, a feminist organisation in Mumbai, India


Author Biography

Amrita De

Amrita De has been working in the field of girls’ rights since the last eight years. She is currently a project coordinator at Vacha Resource Centre for Women and Girls in Mumbai, India. Her interests are girls’ rights, creating alternate histories, gendered socialization of girls, gender and caste, women and madness. 


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